Monday, February 29, 2016

Freud wins again.
The author describes the paragraph below as "a few hundred words of complete nonsense" and calls the title "meaningless".  Against his own worst intentions (allowing for some absolute nonsense and bad grammar) much of it is comprehensible, written while drunk, with a few good passages.  The title itself makes perfect sense.

“Music, Religion, Politics, and Everyday Life: The Tensions of Utopianism and Pragmatism in Movements for Change.”
From the scribes and rabbis who wrote the original Torah, to the troubadour-activists who sang “Which Side Are You On?” and “Waste Deep in the Big Muddy,” to the gangbangers and hip-hoppers who create contemporary street rap, the relationship between culture, politics, religion and everyday life has been poorly understood. As Bloor observes: “In fact sociologists have been only too eager to limit their concern with science to its institutional framework and external factors relating to its rate of growth or direction this leaves untouched the nature of the knowledge thus created.” There is an obvious tension between romanticism and reality, between humanity and barbarism, between self-reflection and communal expression, which pervades both the written word and the oral tradition. Can a society promote utopianism and dystopianism simultaneously, while allowing its governing officials, whether military conquerors or democratically elected, to perform the necessary day-to-day functions of street-cleaning, sanitation, animal rescue, industrial production, hunting-and-gathering, maintaining law and order, and (what Heideger called the “organicity of intellectual work”) educating children and reproducing the next generation. We might call this a kind of scientism of contradiction, or the contradictions of scientific production, or the contradictory intellectual discipline of everyday life. In other words, can the rigors of so called “pure” intellectual work (including those of the priestly class and its modern counterparts), the artistry of craftwork (or the craft of artistry), and the degradations of subsistence agriculture, mining, factory work, and retail sales co-inhabit the same society without igniting the ticking time bomb of social implosion, as we've recently seen in riots in the French suburbs and in the ghettos and barrios of Los Angeles? How, in other words, does the globalization of both production and knowledge work (the so-called “Walmartization” of societies) challenge our ability to think clearly about what is true in contrast to what is delusion? Self-delusion and self-discipline inhibits the reflective self, the postmodern membrane, the ecclesiastical impulse forbidden by truth-seeking and sun worship, problematizing the inchoate structures of both reason and darkness, allowing knowledge, half-knowledge, and knowledgelessness to undermine and yet simultaneously overcome the self-loathing that overwhelms the Gnostic challenge facing Biblical scribes, folksingers, and hip-hop rappers alike. Sociologists ignore these topics at their peril. 
Dreier says C. Wright Mills would be ashamed.
If Mills were alive today, he’d be saddened by the exponential growth of bad writing by academics, especially by those on the left. The problem of academic jargon is not confined to a single political or ideological wing, but it certainly dominates much of the writing by leftists in the social sciences and humanities.

...I was recently asked to review a paper submitted to the Society for Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture for its upcoming annual conference at the University of Calgary in Canada. The paper was entitled “Detroit: Sense of Place and Self-Overcoming,” which I hoped would have something to do with the class and race struggles of the city’s working class, which has suffered due to the decline of its auto industry and Michigan’s increasingly right-wing and anti-union policies. Instead, here’s how the author summarized his ideas:
We build, maintain, and structure cities. Cities, however, maintain and structure certain attitudes in us. Given the attitudes generated by our sense of a place, critical perspectives that only target overt structures within city systems are incomplete. Jacobs outlines several design aspects of the city that are “Anticity…” Hardt and Negri identify the task of the politics of the metropolis as “…to organize antagonisms against hierarchies and divisions of the metropolis…” To fully engage the attitudes generated by our sense of a place requires what Nietzsche describes as self-mastery. Though important factors, design and politics alone are insufficient.
A prominent urban scholar at Harvard describes his latest research project as following:
Through a conceptual distinction between concentrated urbanization (agglomeration) and extended urbanization (operational landscapes) … we aim to investigate the historical geographies of the capitalist urban-industrial fabric in ways that supersede inherited metageographical binarisms while opening up new sociological, cartographic and political perspectives on the contemporary global-urban condition.
...Detroit and other American cities face enormous problems—poverty, homelessness, suburban sprawl, decaying infrastructure, underfunded schools, pollution, racial profiling by cops, and others. Professors and researchers who study and care about cities—and whose work is subsidized directly and indirectly (through foundation grants and government-sponsored financial aid to students) by tax dollars—have an obligation to help address these problems, in part by explaining the roots of the urban crisis and what’s needed to address it. It is difficult to see how this kind of abstract theorizing and impenetrable prose contributes to improving our cities.
The project at Harvard is the Urban Theory Lab, and the professor is Neil Brenner
Previous, on another Harvard cultural "Lab"
on the "research model"
For Detroit, see the link on the bottom here.

"The Tensions of Utopianism and Pragmatism in Movements for Change.”
My first thought was Corey Robin's contempt for Montesquieu because "he pursued no beckoning light", then Emmanuel Todd, "A religion is a form of utopia: when it disappears, alternative utopias appear." But the obvious is the "Democratic Socialist" Bernie Sanders and "Killer" Mike.
Actually my first response posted on twitter was "What next, the idiot Hofstadter?"
The next day Ross Douthat tweeted a quote from  "Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections"
In 1963 Richard Hofstadter published his landmark book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Today, Matt Lewis argues, America's inclination toward simplicity and stupidity is stronger than ever, and its greatest victim is the Republican Party. Lewis, a respected conservative columnist and frequent guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe, eviscerates the phenomenon of candidates with a "no experience required" mentality and tea party "patriots" who possess bluster but few core beliefs.
Americans, dumb and dumber. Fuck Peter Dreier, fuck C.Wright Mills, fuck Harvard (and Douthat was for Harvard before he was against it).  The questions remain. Below repeats the post mentioned above. Go there for the context
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Technocracy is not democracy, and the knee-jerk, mirror-image, rebellion against technocracy is not a democratic movement. The decay of technocracy is something else; it produces another social order.


The bow-tied college professor, Jerry Herron, like Borges and his gauchos, idealizes a culture built from necessity. For the whites, including white DJs, in from the suburbs, the music was a discovery, but the men who invented the music have a richer more complex understanding. They were trying to preserve the humane in an inhumane world, using a language they as products of that world understood. There's a connection that runs through Herron to both Borges and Lawrence Lessig, and also Graeber and to Cody Wilson: a fundamental misunderstanding of culture. The knowing irony on all sides that connected Detroit techno and hip-hop to Kraftwerk and hip-hop to the gay clubs in the 70's is lost on followers of simple, otherworldly individualist, liberalism. Culture is conservative: it conserves.

Ideological liberals don't understand culture, seeing it as a choice rather than something constitutive of what they are. But libertarian culture like fascist and Stalinist culture could be called almost an oxymoron.
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And Detroit also means Bowie.  Now let's talk politics.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Coates in 2008, The Negro Sings Of Zionism
Now, I realize that black nationalism has often been laced with a nice dose of antisemitism. But my point is that philosophically, Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann have much more in common with Marcus Garvey and Martin Delaney than with Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King. Black leadership--so influenced by Marin Luther King--would almost naturally be lukewarm to Israel, because Civil Rights philosophy not only explicitly rejects nationalism, it actually rejects violence--even in self-defense. Say what you will about Al Sharpton--his response to Sean Bell is Martin Luther King's not Huey Newton's. Thus when people shuffle out the old "Israel has the right to defend itself" number, I hear echoes of Malcolm X upbraiding MLK for singing "We Shall Overcome" as racial terorists bombed churches and sicced dogs on women. "This is part of what’s wrong with you -- you do too much singing," Malcolm once said. "Today it’s time to stop singing and start swinging."

This isn't a criticism of Zionism. I came up in the orbit of black nationalism, went to a black college, and have made my home mere blocks from where Garvey used to lead his parades. Indeed, as the brothers say, Game respect Game. Plus our histories aren't exact matches. Antisemitism is at once older, and more present. Jew-hating is the western world's oldest ethnic prejudice, nearly four times as old as anti-black racism, plus the Holocaust is much closer to us than the epoch of slavery. But that doesn't stop me from, every so often, throwing in my old Malcolm tapes, or thumbing through David Walker's Appeal and wondering whether we took the right path

As a dude who came up banging Malcolm's "Ballot or The Bullet" like it was the Wu-Tang Forever, who recited Garvey's "Look For Me In The Whirlwind" at the school assembly, Israel is like a parallel universe, what Liberia could have been with the alteration of a few key historical variables. In Israel, cats like me see the shadows of another choice. Then we cut on "Flavor Of Love" and realize that it could not have been any other way.
Rania Khalek, at EI, responding to Coates' recent arguments.
“Reparations could not make up for the murder perpetrated by the Nazis. But they did launch Germany’s reckoning with itself, and perhaps provided a roadmap for how a great civilization might make itself worthy of the name,” Coates writes.

There are some gaping holes in this narrative.

First, it relies on a total conflation of Israel and Zionism, on the one hand, with Jews, on the other. And it accepts uncritically the ahistorical claim that Israel and Zionism were the victims of the Nazis, and therefore Israel was the appropriate address for “reparations,” the delivery of which could offer Germans absolution.
The second paragraph made me cringe but I understand the point. The link is to Joseph Massad.
Scientific anti-Semitism insisted that the Jews were different from Christian Europeans. Indeed that the Jews were not European at all and that their very presence in Europe is what causes anti-Semitism.

...Whereas Zionism insists that Jews are a race separate from European Christians, the Palestinians insist that European Jews are nothing if not European and have nothing to do with Palestine, its people, or its culture.
After 1947 European Jews began to call themselves white, to distinguish themselves from Arabs, and also from Mizrahi. For the full absurdity, see Sara Lipton and follow the links.


Did black Americans have a "right" to the new state of Liberia?  Do Syrians now have a "right" to go to Europe?  The desperate go where they need to.

Usually I link to "Jacobin" as "Hamas" (out of no particular antipathy to the former) but the hipsters have a good one this time: An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Liberals Who Love Him
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Liberia. The indigenous majority didn't get the vote until the middle of the 20th century.  The country was run on Jim Crow.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Schopenhauer quoted by Zadie Smith
The true work of art leads us from that which exists only once and never again, i.e. the individual, to that which exists perpetually and time and time again in innumerable manifestations, the pure form or Idea; but the waxwork figure appears to present the individual itself, that is to say that which exists only once and never again, but without that which lends value to such a fleeting existence, without life. That is why the waxwork evokes a feeling of horror: it produces the effect of a rigid corpse.
Smith
I was too busy marveling at the puppets, at the mixture of artifice and realism they represent...

But across their eyes and around their hairline they sport a visible seam, indicating where the separate plates of their puppet faces fit together. Usually these seams are obscured in post-production; Kaufman and his codirector Duke Johnson decided to leave them in, feeling they “related to the themes that were in the story.”

The effect is uncanny, but not of the Polar Express kind. The seams feel Brechtian: reminding us that Michael is not real, but representation.
The "soap opera effect" The common complaint is that the motion blur software in new TVs makes things "too real".
We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and re-searched, for the way to put over lies, he would never accomplish anything.
Waxworks work as theater, not sculpture. That's the work-around.
Duane Hanson's theater of daily life.

Smith has become a sort of archetypal cosmopolitan liberal: bi or multiracial, not American but living here; she's a novelist for thoughtful financial analysts. Her date for the movie was Tamsin Shaw,  author of among other things, "The 'Last Man' Problem: Nietzsche and Weber on Political Attitudes to Suffering"
I shall argue that underlying Weber’s view of secularism is a deeply Nietzschean set of assumptions concerning our attitudes to suffering and, in particular, our need for suffering to have meaning. In Weber’s evocative conclusion to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he laments a process of secularization that dissolves a spiritually meaningful form of worldly asceticism into “pure utilitarianism” (PE, 125; GARS, I, 205). He claims that this cultural development culminates in the arrogance of those “last men” (letzte Menschen) who imagine themselves to be the apex of civilization, whilst being merely “specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart” (PE 125; GARS, I, 204). In his final published lecture on Science as a Vocation, he again recalls Nietzsche’s “devastating criticism of those ‘last men’” who ‘invented happiness’” (FMW 143; GAW 598).
The link refer's to a Leiter's discussion of the paper. The unlinked quote above is Picasso in 1923. [link added, jumping forward] Nietzsche and Weber, (never mind what people claim about N.) were interested in truth as truth. So is Tamsin Shaw. Artists are not interested in truth as such, but the communication of the perceptions which have become the truth of their experience of the world.

According to Maria Farrell, Kazuo Ishiguro had never heard of Dungeons and Dragons until someone asked him if he'd played it.  D&D is fakery-as-fakery for people who believe in truth. It's art for "very serious people". See Smith, from last year; the links lead here; see also this, and on and on. I'm sure at some point the links lead to Quiggin. I'd check but I'm lazy.

Illustration is art that reinforces previous assumptions. The Remains of the Day tells the story of the tragedy of wrong assumptions. But it's a tragedy only because Ishiguro manipulates you into identifying with the person making the mistakes. It's a lie as a lie that makes you feel real emotion.
The following extended love scene is of such a delicacy and beauty that it reduced the audience to nervous giggles, as if embarrassed to be intruding upon such intimacy between puppets. But before anybody takes off their clothes, Michael, besotted by Lisa’s voice, asks her to sing one of her beloved Cyndi Lauper songs, and Lisa, fearful she is being ridiculed, closes her eyes and cautiously begins. This song should rightly, thematically, be “True Colors” and so there is something unexpectedly amusing about Lisa opening her miraculous mouth and singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

We get the whole song, in all its lyrical banality3...
The intrusion of a footnote: a needle knocked out of it's groove and the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

She quotes Schopenhauer again
The gift of genius is nothing but...the ability...to discard entirely our own personality for a time, in order to remain pure knowing subject, the clear eye of the world.
The pure knowing subject, became the practitioner of Weber's value free science.  In the first it's hyperbole; in the second it's bullshit.  Disinterest is not objectivity. Henry James was not a scientist.

Baudelaire
What is pure art according to the modern idea? It is the creation of an evocative magic, containing at once the object and the subject, the world external to the artist and the artist himself.

What is Philosophical Art according to the ideas of Chenavard and the German school? It is a plastic art which sets itself up in place of books, by which I mean as a rival to the printing press in the teaching of history, morals and philosophy.
Two degrees of separation between people I enjoy reading and those who make me want to puke.
more maybe, or not, later.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

US backed groups in Syria are are now fighting each other with US supplied materiel.

The US has asked Russia to stop attacks near the Turkish border against al-Nusra because they're mingled with US backed rebels.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The problem of Arendt
That she refers to "plurality" out of a sympathy for an idea. Readers never escape the sense she's making arguments explicitly from preference. And she argues for things she thinks are being lost. The same with Habermas and the rest. But nothing's been lost: facts that were once seen as foundational are now ignored. Plurality like partiality is not an option; it's a given. We experience a Rashomon world whether we want to or not. And the fact of our collective efforts is no less a fact for the contemporary preference for the descriptive terms of individualism.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Aside from the accusations of sexism which fell flat, this was funny.
"I want E Warren as Prez. She won't run"

I like good vulgar politics.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jeffrey Sachs. Why Hillary Clinton is unfit to be President.
In 2012, Clinton was the obstacle, not the solution, to a ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It was US intransigence - Clinton's intransigence - that led to the failure of Annan's peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well known among diplomats. Despite Clinton's insinuation in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of course) no 2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for that carnage, which has by now displaced more than 10 million Syrians and left more than 250,000 dead.

As every knowledgeable observer understands, the Syrian War is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about Syria itself. It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran. And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and misguided for that reason.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni powers in the Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a regional rival for power and influence. Right-wing Israelis view Iran as an implacable foe that controls Hezbollah, a Shi'a militant group operating in Lebanon, a border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all clamored to remove Iran's influence in Syria.

This idea is incredibly naïve. Iran has been around as a regional power for a long time--in fact, for about 2,700 years. And Shia Islam is not going away. There is no way, and no reason, to "defeat" Iran. The regional powers need to forge a geopolitical equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing roles of the Gulf Arabs, Turkey, and Iran. And Israeli right-wingers are naïve, and deeply ignorant of history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe, especially when that mistaken view pushes Israel to side with Sunni jihadists.

Yet Clinton did not pursue that route. Instead she joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to isolate, even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported secret negotiations between Israel and Syria to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran's influence. Those talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed successfully for Plan B: to overthrow Assad.

When the unrest of the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011, the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey saw an opportunity to topple Assad quickly and thereby to gain a geopolitical victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the CIA-led effort at Syrian regime change.

In early 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia leveraged local protests against Assad to try to foment conditions for his ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and the US allies were organizing an armed insurrection against the regime. On August 18, 2011, the US Government made public its position: "Assad must go."

...The hubris of the United States in this approach seems to know no bounds. The tactic of CIA-led regime change is so deeply enmeshed as a "normal" instrument of U.S. foreign policy that it is hardly noticed by the U.S. public or media. Overthrowing another government is against the U.N. charter and international law. But what are such niceties among friends?

This instrument of U.S. foreign policy has not only been in stark violation of international law but has also been a massive and repeated failure.
read the rest

One quibble over numbers: Colum Lynch in FP
Assad is routinely accused of murdering 250,000 of his own people. The only problem is that there’s no proof he did.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

repeats. From the paper.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a dissent from 2009:
“This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”
Scalia says this because the Constitution refers to due “process” not to outcome.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The letter and the spirit of the law. The phrase itself undermines the claims of naturalist epistemology. What is judging? Who’s to judge? Here we get back to the relation of art and law and of abstraction to representation.

On the letter of the law Scalia is correct. To argue from the spirit of law or language is subjectivism, and subjectivism is inarticulate, in-formal, isolate: the end of the social. But to argue only from the letter is cold, inhuman, unjust:
“He’s just a boy! He didn’t mean it! It was an accident! He’s my son!”
“Okay Let him go.”
“He’s just a boy! He didn’t mean it! It was an accident! He’s my son!”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s the law.”
Does it matter that he killed five people? Who’s to judge?

Formal logic in the world of experience is pedantry, and military pedantry in civic life is fascism. Pedantry will always become hypocrisy. Policemen enforcing law will always tend to identify themselves not with its enforcement but its embodiment. “I am the law.” And by identifying themselves with law the laws’ authority will become theirs. “St Paul says: To the pure all things are pure.” [Titus 1:15] That’s the pull of the short circuit, of identification.
The puffing moralist Corey Robin says Scalia was like Trump.
Last night Trump, not for the first time, said Bush lied about Iraq.

Trump has a good time playing to Scalia's audience while laughing at them.
A few people have compared him to Buchanan.

I haven't put anything in the paper about Gödel and Addington. It belongs with the above.

A commenter at Leiter linked the video. Scalia was an Authoritarian Catholic, and far from a brilliant example of the type.


"[T]he issue was simply whether carbon was an environmental pollutant or not, and I did not think that it was ever regarded as that. It is not the Atmospheric Protection Agency it's the Environmental Protection Agency. And it has always been thought to have authority only to control the environment and not outer space."

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Why is “Laborism” an increasing influence within the Democratic Party even though union density continues to decline?"

Rich Yeselson (previously here) makes the most honestly absurd, earnestly self-blind and self-serving argument I've read in a long time. It's impressive even by the standards of CT.
For about 30 years, a goal of the most sophisticated sectors of the labor movement has been to import the talents and commitment of the college educated middle class onto union staffs, and to export, via programs like Union Summer, the Organizing Institute, and organizing campaigns on college campuses, the ethos of unionism to colleges and other precincts of the professional liberal elite. One milestone in this effort, for example was the union-intellectuals conference at Columbia in 1996, for example, which called for an explicit alliance between leftist intellectuals and unions and featured keynote addresses by Betty Friedan, Richard Rorty, and Cornel West and John Sweeney, then president of the AFL-CIO. And this strategy worked! Key thinkers and pundits like Paul Krugman became more interested in unions as a lynchpin for addressing income inequality and, even, as institutions of civil society, being a kind of the liberal equivalent to evangelical churches. Lots of public intellectuals, during this period, wrote about labor and union issues in non-academic media.

...Meanwhile, college kids, disproportionately at elite colleges and universities, got involved in campus organizing fights and—in another superstructural result of post sixties scholarship—took leftist oriented classes in American labor history and the social sciences. Yale, to name a major example, became a major venue of the new laborism and continues to send undergrads and grad students to union staff positions as organizers and strategic researchers.

...So this all became a virtuous circle—college types go into the labor movement, making it more creative, attentive to recognitional issues of race and gender, and more interested in larger questions of political economy. (For a time, the most creative union presidents were, by common consensus, three graduates of Ivy League universities. Now David Rolf, a graduate of Hamilton College, who got interested in unions in college and has an intellectual partnership with class traitor, billionaire Nick Hanauer, is considered the cutting edge union thinker.)
A "virtuous circle" led by our liberal elite, and billionaire "class traitors".

Change comes from below.
Pew Research Center surveys show that half of Millennials (50%) now describe themselves as political independents and about three-in-ten (29%) say they are not affiliated with any religion. These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

At the same time, however, Millennials stand out for voting heavily Democratic and for liberal views on many political and social issues, ranging from a belief in an activist government to support for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Henry 02.07.16 at 7:17 pm
Eszter – on the contrast between the fallibility of machine learning and hype, I liked this by danah, which you’ve presumably already seen.
Before there was Justine Tunney, (and what she became) there was Danah Boyd.
It’s been 20 years — 20 years!? — since John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” — a rant in response to the government and corporate leaders who descend on a certain snowy resort town each year as part of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Picture that pamphleteering with me for a moment…
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone.
I first read Barlow’s declaration when I was 18 years old. I was in high school and in love with the Internet. His manifesto spoke to me. It was a proclamation of freedom, a critique of the status quo, a love letter to the Internet that we all wanted to exist. I didn’t know why he was in Davos, Switzerland, nor did I understand the political conversation he was engaging in. All I knew is that he was on my side.

...Yet, what I struggled with the most wasn’t the sheer excess of Silicon Valley in showcasing its value but the narrative that underpinned it all. I’m quite used to entrepreneurs talking hype in tech venues, but what happened at Davos was beyond the typical hype, in part because most of the non-tech people couldn’t do a reality check. They could only respond with fear. As a result, unrealistic conversations about artificial intelligence led many non-technical attendees to believe that the biggest threat to national security is humanoid killer robots, or that AI that can do everything humans can is just around the corner, threatening all but the most elite technical jobs. In other words, as I talked to attendees, I kept bumping into a 1970s science fiction narrative.
A reference to Boyd in an old comment at Savage Minds. I'd read her a bit by then.
I guess I should be impressed. Tunney ended up an open, pathetic, fascist. Again the failures of utopian engineering, of the world and the self, beginning with self-hatred and ending in moralizing violence. Boyd is just the club kid at Microsoft.

The Economist: How John Perry Barlow views his internet manifesto on its 20th anniversary
The Economist: What do you think you got especially right—or wrong?
JPB: I will stand by much of the document as written. I believe that it is still true that the governments of the physical world have found it very difficult to impose their will on cyberspace. Of course, they are as good as they ever were at imposing their will on people whose bodies they can lay a hand on, though it is increasingly easy, as it was then, to use technical means to make the physical location of those bodies difficult to determine.

Even when they do get someone cornered, like Chelsea Manning, or Julian Assange, or [Edward] Snowden, they’re not much good at shutting them up. Ed regularly does $50,000 speeches to big corporate audiences and is obviously able to speak very freely. Ditto Julian. And even ditto Chelsea Manning, who despite the fact that she’s serving a 35-year sentence, is still able to speak her mind to all who will listen. 
I've made the same arguments since the time Danah Boyd was born. I was raised on them.  I played Dungeons and Dragons once in my life, in 1978, sitting on the floor with a teenage grad student in computer science, dialed into the mainframe at U. Penn, reading the printouts from a large format printer. Neither of us were very interested. Five years later watching Graeber and his friends play was depressing. Even played with human beings it was more Kraftwerk than Celtic, more escape than engagement, the panicked denial of the darkness of Kafka and Duchamp, of Warhol and Robert Wilson and Bowie and Detroit. "People think that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all." The isolation of machine life, the perverse pleasures of autism, of life without pain. As ideology it was the curdled nihilism of Borges: a child who grew old refusing to grow up.  Aaron Swartz was too good for this world.

All repeated below in a comment at Savage Minds that won't make it. I understand why. I have no patience.
"It is strange when capitalism, which in the contemporary scene so values flexibility and mobility, invents constraints for itself that inhibit the very qualities it thrives on."

The intellectual models of Modernism are the philosopher, the engineer and the librarian, all builders of infrastructure. The primacy of ideas, not of people, or even the record of their actions. Librarians are bureaucrats, Benthamites of thought. The poetry of bureaucracy is Kafka, Otto Weininger, Daniel Paul Schreber, Wittgenstein, and Duchamp. It's mechanized violence and mechanized sex. Also Nietzsche and Borges: the celebration by neurasthenic bookworms for the romantic ideal of illiterate barbarians. A romance of freedom in a mechanized world. Fascism was born from paradox.

 “shell as hard as steel”  I never followed this much. Wow. Amazing how much it was twisted. The same with Strachey and Freud.

"People say that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all." An old friend of mine and an expert on Warhol. The quote's from memory but I've never forgotten it.
The perverse pleasure of autism and the history of the closet. Weininger to Kraftwerk.

"Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art."

The perverse desperation of Viennese art was founded in assumptions of its own inadequacy: the inadequacy of the merely beautiful in the face of the intelligent.

I've always hated Weber with a passion. A Machiavel for the steel age. I have sympathy for his damaged children, but not for geeks and manic autism without irony. Aaron Swartz was a pathetic narcissist. Justine Tunney is a transexual-fascist: again self-hating and self-loving.  Now Danah Boyd seems to have figured out that her Panglossian tech-hipster act has always been a celebration of Weberian authoritarianism. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Engineering The Revolution: Arms And Enlightenment In France, 1763-1815
Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education

Two books. The same story.
"The disenchantment of the world" is a world without desire. It never happened. It never will happen.
That Weber's supposed "iron cage" was written as “a shell as hard as steel” is just amazing. And the below becomes just obvious.
For Weber, on the contrary, the steel shell is the symbol of passivity, the transformation of the Puritan hero into a figure of mass mediocrity. True,we have not yet reached the terrifying dimension of Kafka's Metamorphosis in which the chief protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes to find himself transformed into a giant bug lying on his "hard, as it were armor-plated back" (panzerartig harten Rücken), and whose first thoughts and worries are about his job and his time table, rather than his fantastically changed state. But Weber's metaphor places The Protestant Ethic within a lineage that stretches past Kafka to embrace Hannah Arendt's concern that "watched from a sufficiently removed vantage point in the universe . . . modern motorization would appear like a process of biological mutation in which human bodies gradually begin to be covered by shells of steel" and beyond her to those contemporary writers who speculate on cyborgs and the "posthuman"or "transhuman"condition.
Once again, the ghost of Panofsky helps me out, giving me just the sources I need to make my point.
"those contemporary writers who speculate on cyborgs and the 'posthuman' or 'transhuman' condition."
There is no aspect of scientific knowledge that mandates institutionalized instrumental reason in all aspects of life. There is no telos to the world beyond entropy, and even that puts too much of a glow on physical events. The 18th century was the age of enchantment with science, an enchantment morphing over time into various forms of a philosophy along a line also described in the arts, which themselves describe (again) not the world but our perceptions of it. Equality in the language of philosophy originates in the discovery or construction, by members of an elite, of the idea of equality, rather than in the recognition of the practice of it by the people, and has ended in the study of people by that same elite not as equal but alike: the study of each of us only in terms of the aggregate. And in this the logic of individualism becomes its opposite, except that the elite observers have quietly removed themselves from the game. The greatest heroes of technocracy are those who can predict the behavior of the middling and in this they have become middling themselves. But it’s these heroes who are left to make the decisions for the rest of us. 
Farrell's fondness for Weber and for fantasy fiction (click the link at the bottom)
"If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom." A cynic's form of democracy. Farrell's such a sleazy fuck.

I should look at Mayer and Mommsen but again, I don't have the patience for polite arguments in defense of the obvious. Appropriate that Mayer was the editor of the Gallimard edition of Tocqueville's complete works and that he wrote on the sociology of film.

Sunday, February 07, 2016



Middle East Eye, Feb 6
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.

During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.

“‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye.

Kerry told reporters on Friday, as tens of thousands fled the Syrian government and Russian bombardment of Aleppo, that both Russia and Iran, another of Syria's allies, have told him that they are prepared for a ceasefire in Syria.

He said he would know “whether or not these parties are serious” after a meeting of the International Syria Support Group – 17 nations including the US and Russia – scheduled to be held in Munich next week.

But Kerry left the aid workers with the distinct impression that the US is abandoning efforts to support rebel fighters.
Reuters, Feb 3
Syria says Saudi, Qatar, Turkey told opposition to quit Geneva talks.

Friday, February 05, 2016

History of Philosophy.

Leiter 2004
And please bear in mind that I take neither Dr. Lillehammer nor Professor Dennett to be disputing Timothy Williamson's point in his contribution to The Future for Philosophy that, "Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth...."
Leiter 2016
I have no crystal ball, so I can’t tell you whether there will be...a return to the core values of robust expression and debate which are essential for academic life, as even Herbert Marcuse realized in his famous polemic against “Repressive Tolerance.” There is some portion of the younger generation of professional philosophers (grad students and assistant professors) who consistently have the wrong views on these questions. They may well take over the discipline, that I cannot predict. It’s ironic, because other humanities fields, like English, went through this totalitarian catastrophe in the 1980s while philosophy remained a paragon of wissenschaftlich seriousness.
The comment he quotes approvingly, without linking, (he explains why) is a series of numbered points. No. 2 refers to a "Specialization exhaustion" in the humanities.  No. 6 begins:  "In both cases, the proponents of the new approaches are basically of two sorts: those already powerful and those not already powerful." That's the foundation of every conservative argument against elite liberalism since the 50s.  Left wing cynics have always understood white anger. Derrick Bell etc., etc.

Philosophy and economics are the last of the Modernist ideologies. The crisis in literature in the 80's was a response to change.
The girl yelling at him has the anger of a campus anti-porn campaigner in 1985. It's the anger of someone fully vested in the system, already a member of the elite, demanding and still struggling for full equality within  it.  It's the anger of a moralizing bourgeois reformer of her own class.
Jason Stanley 2006 "In Defense of Baroque Specialization"  [repeats]

Leiter 2016
"I'm grateful to Jonny Thakkar for calling my attention to this nicely written essay by a recent Oxford DPhil."
It wasn’t that one could only be profound in German, or that philosophers interested in the sciences were doomed to wade in the shallows. It was rather a point about style—that some styles of thought and writing in philosophy, more than others, are able to convey that mysterious thing, depth.

The British moral philosophy of the early postwar years, the years in which Williams began his career, was many things—clever, incisive, often funny—but it was rarely deep. It was as if the aspiration to depth had been tarnished, with much else that was the tiniest bit Germanic, by its vague association with fascism.

...The hardest thing in philosophy, Williams wrote in the preface to Morality, published twenty years after The Language of Morals, was finding the right style, “in the deepest sense of ‘style’ in which to discover the right style is to discover what you are really trying to do.”
Leiter links to this because the author spends a bit of time mocking the "effective altruism" and other moralists. He makes them sound as if they've all taken vows of poverty, when I thought the point was that they hadn't. And according to Nakul Krishna the answers to Oxonian scholasticism include E.M. Forster. The eternal struggle between pedants to fops; not much has changed in 140 years. And then there's this.
The cover of my Pelican edition of Williams’s Morality bears two details from Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, a set of double-sided discs that, when spun on a turntable at a specified speed, created the impression of depth. 
 That's just bizarre; appropriate, but not in any intended way.
What made the years of grad school bearable was the jokey solidarity among those of us unsympathetic to this understanding of ethics, the ones who wrote on Aristotle and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, on ambivalence, alienation and anger, and who didn’t see morality wherever they looked.
Nietzsche and Wittgenstein by choice or not lived burdened lives. Aristotle is something else.
As Aristotle saw a long time ago, there’s no place in ethics for intellectual precocity. I had once seen a book-length gripe about everything other philosophers were getting wrong. I saw now that focusing on the errors of philosophers was a way of getting at something much more important: the evasions of human beings in their hankering after certainty and system. My favorite aphorism of Williams’s, almost a throwaway line in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, goes, “The only serious enterprise is living, and we have to live after the reflection; moreover (though the distinction of theory and practice encourages us to forget it), we have to live during it as well.”
The Baroque is an aristocratic performance ethic, less than a virtue ethic. It's Catholic as opposed to Protestant, which is appropriate for a philosopher in an age of the decline of philosophy (philosophy defined as prescriptive and authoritarian). Theater and law re-stage philosophical argument as a debate among equals, in a world without kings.
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.
"...we shall begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle."

Against my argument that Nakul Krishna is just a mannered fop.
The success of Doniger’s opponents in having her book withdrawn from the Indian market is not a simple triumph of bullying; at least in this case, their means were constitutional ones. Their success is, rather, the product of the slow accrual of power to an emigrant intelligentsia with its fact-checkers and open letters on the one hand, and an Indian vanguard with its legal notices and hurt sentiments on the other. Doniger’s liberal defenders need to confront the fact that her opponents too claim the moral and political high ground. Not for the first time, it looks like liberalism is awkward when confronted with the question of power, at a loss about what to say to those to whom liberty is not the highest value.
That's smart.

Leiter again, 2016
"A nicely written piece by philosopher V. Alan White--do take a look."
In a very forceful sense of what's contingent, I should not be writing this sentence. I'm writing this one as well only because my mother finished the interior of a casket in a way that displeased someone, the wife of the factory's owner. Had this one person said, "Well, I wouldn't have tacked that fabric that way, but it's ok," or the like, I would not be writing this sentence either. But she didn't say that to my mother. She said something like "You need to redo that lining--it's not right." To my now long-lost mother, whose intricately crocheted doilies sit on my furniture as I write these sentences, that was needless comeuppance. She defended her work, and was sent home for the day.

And that is why I'm writing this sentence. One small moment that could have happened--the boss's wife might have caved and acknowledged my Mom was doing a good enough job--did not. And that's why I'm writing this sentence.
The fact of a working class childhood, described in uninteresting language. Like Laurie Paul.
The "discovery" by philosophers of fiction and "art", not as idea but practice and heuristic.

Leiter: "condescension from below"

I'm not much interested in Williams, or the rest. Amusing to find out he was a "harsh" critic of Rorty. They obviously had too much in common to get along. He took form and formality seriously in a way Rorty didn't (and I say that without reading either beyond a glance). Googling Williams and Rorty, the third link down, following Williams' review of Rorty in 1989, and Rorty reviewing Williams in 2002, both in the LRB, and above Williams reviewing Rorty again in the NYRB in 1983 , was CT, and Bertram confirming my lazy assumptions.
I’m very puzzled by the claim, repeatedly made in this thread, that Rorty was anathematized by the anglo-american philosophical mainstream because he challenged their methods and their conception of the boundaries of the subject. First, I don’t think it is true that he was anathematized, just that he wasn’t taken as seriously as his fans would have liked. Second, it is very easy to point to philosophers who reject scientism and who also challenge those same boundaries and who have always been treated with the utmost respect by “insiders”. To name but one: Bernard Williams.

...My experience of reading Williams is, in some respects, akin to my experience of reading Nietzsche, in that he had the power to say something (often, merely by the lightest of comments in passing) that is profoundly unsettling. My experience of reading Rorty does not involve being unsettled in the least, just thinking “no, that’s wrong”, “what’s the _argument_ for _that_?” etc. Lots of people are even more “open-faced” in their “dissent” than Rorty, but I find it hard to believe that degree of open-faced dissent is a good predictor of long-term impact. Really having something to say, and saying it well, on the other hand, probably is.
Bertram is saying that Williams took writing seriously, and was able therefore to communicate his desires for some things to be just so, with the result that a reader who disagreed would at least understand the desire, and the complexity of Williams' person and experience. That's what good writing does.

And of course Krishna was raised to be a technocrat.
My parents were part of the educated Indian middle class who approved of books only as long as they were called, say, Advanced Statistics; when they caught me with a copy of Middlemarch they told me I oughtn’t to be reading storybooks at my age.
Modernism and progress, "backward" peoples. "Engineering the Revolution" or Jihad.


This is the age of reality
But some of us deal with mythology
This is the age of science and technology
But some of us are stopped by antiquity

LKJ was a Modernist. Nakul Krishna may be too close to Naipaul. But he's facing contradictions that Leiter et al. do their best to avoid. And Maybe N+1 has gotten a little better, since their days of publishing art reviews by managing directors in private equity.