Sunday, January 30, 2011

Qatar-based news service Al Jazeera has a long relationship with Creative Commons licensing. Now, for its coverage of the Egyptian uprising, it has released photographs via Flickr and video on a CC license.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Neoconservative support for fascists does nothing but slow down the spread of neoliberalism.
The spread of protests are a result of globalization of communication. And in Egypt they were started by teenagers, the prime target demographic.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"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. This is the model of society founded on not on democracy but on the “imperatives” of research and progress.

The absolute unity of purpose is the end of social life. I’ve called these fantasies the theater of science but they’re also of course the theater of aspiration, with the same conflicted relation of form to subject that found in Plato’s dialogues and the story of Moses and Aaron: the paradox of oratory against rhetoric, the argument via the neutral -dead- medium of language, across subjectivities, for absolute value."
"Jolly Division!" Via Tony Karon

The world is looking elsewhere at the moment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Palestine Papers

In Israel as in the US, liberal defense of conservative policy did no more than encourage conservative moves to the right.

Conservatives believe everyone acts on reflex. They live down to their own expectations and then use their own behavior to confirm their own assumptions.

The first principle of liberalism is that liberals are nice people. With the best intentions, sincerity trumps logic. Liberal Zionism was always an oxymoron.

Liberal passivity more than conservative aggression is responsible for the current politics of the US. The same passivity will result in the end of the Jewish state.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Note-taking/record-keeping. More comments made elsewhere
A social ecosystem is a grouping of complex and antagonistic subsystems. The market and market relations are a subsystem. If you want to argue that the market or the practical instrumentalism of life strengthens social bounds and society be testing, that's fine. If you want to argue that technocratic liberals put theory before practice when it's clear that practice always precedes theory, as fiddle playing preceded the philosophy of it, then again you have a point. But if you want to use the market as a general model then you're not paying attention. The behavior foundational to democracy preceded the theory of democracy and the practice of the Scandinavian model of sociability and economic activity preceded the naming of what we call Social Democracy, just as the practice in Hollywood in the late 40's of making cheap B/W films shaded with antisocial desires preceded the naming of Film Noir by cineastes from a different country. And that's why the films of the Coen brothers, students of students, and of Film Noir more than of the films themselves, are thought of as mannered and "over-determined." Art and society are always avant la lettre.
Philosophy qua philosophy is la lettre.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noted by someone else but now in my records. Matthew Yglesias at the beginning of his brilliant career. 2002
After the last depressing news from the Middle East I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied terroritories. [sic] The result would probably be out-and-out war with the neighboring Arab states, but Israel could win that.
All forced population transfers are humanitarian disasters, of course, but so is the current situation. It's not like there's not any room in the whole Arab world for all these Palestinian Arabs to go live in, it's just that the other Arab leaders don't want to cooperate.
Less philosophy, less theory, less political science. More history.
update: please

Monday, January 17, 2011

Note taking
Posted elsewhere rewritten slightly/still sloppy.
"the mathematics that is adequate to everyday life"
Mathematics is not adequate to everyday life. The experience of individuals is irreducible in the understanding of others.

The limits of philosophy are not the limits of thought. Philosophy concerns names not experience. Connoisseurship concerns the appreciation of distinctions that can be communicated only imprecisely. The philosopher Paul Grice discussed implicature. [the action of implying a meaning beyond the literal sense of what is explicitly stated, e.g., saying the frame is nice and implying I don't like the picture in it.] Are actors now supposed to give him credit for explaining why they all want to perform plays by Shakespeare, or why we watch and compare performances over and over again of the same texts!? Philosophers, Derrida included, consider literature "parasitic" but the focus on aperspectival truth leads to a philosophy of prescription. The limits of thought: why we have prosecutors and defense attorneys, paid factotums [actors again] and an adversarial system of justice. Rationalists prefer the inquisitorial system that credits their own sense of reason. The limits of thought: can you translate Mallarmé into English? No you cannot. Can you experience my life? No you cannot. The practice of fiddle playing precedes the philosophy of it.

The primary focus in democracy is not on objects or self or other but on relation between them. "Imperfect justice" is the result of a process whereby two agents loyal to their own bias and to process perform before an audience. I can see how Deleuze et al are trying to justify in terms of rationalism the necessity of empiricism but this reads as the desperate communalism of individualists. That's the tragedy of the hippies. Philosophy as such is individualist in the same sense that the rationalist defense of empiricism is not the practice of it. The focus on ideals and idealisms strengthens (as performative) esthetics that in the political world manifest as authoritarianism.

How can a prosecutor imagine him/her self as anything but 1/2 of a relation? How can an actor exist without at audience? Lawyers and actors, and historians, are craftspeople performing actions judged and contextualized by others, and as such neither irrationalist nor individualist.

As an aside, it's interesting that the reviewer of the book on Habermas [discussed on the same page here] argues for respecting original intent:
"Why does he deem it necessary to read Habermas’s philosophical lecture as containing a coded reference? Is something gained in this discovery?"

The return to humanism in modernity is a return to process over a fixation on objects and product. The desperation of DG is a part of that process of change. Again: the children of Luther and Descartes are not humanists. Humanism begins not in science (or the analogies of science as scientism) but history.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia, Lebanon, etc.
The people who claimed that the Wikileaks releases didn't amount to much chose to ignore the middle east.
FLC and...
AlJazeera versus Al-Arabiyyah TV
An experienced and knowledgeable Western correspondent in the Middle East (who is fluent in Arabic), sent me this: "The comparison between Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya now that bin Ali has gone is interesting: alJazeera frames the issue now as about removing all vestiges of the former regime, al-Arabiya wants to preserve it. Najwa al-Qassem harangued rights activist Radia al-Nasraoui saying how can you get rid of a whole generation of ruling class?? Radia responded: "it's as if you're saying our fate is to be ruled by these people.""
Posted by As'ad at 8:43 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Google Buzz

Bin Ali and Israel: from the Clinton years
"Earlier today in a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Ben Yahia, I expressed our appreciation for the tireless efforts of President Ben Ali of Tunisia in advancing the peace process. Now by establishing these new ties with Israel, Tunisia has once again demonstrated its commitment to the peace process. The foreign minister and I also discussed threats against Tunisia. I told him that the United States would take such threats very seriously, and that we are committed to a stable and secure Tunisia." (thanks Mick)
Posted by As'ad at 8:42 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Google Buzz

France and Tunisia
After insulting the Tunisian people by offering security equipment to Bin Ali when the movement first started, today France discovered that it has embarrassed itself. It now talks about respecting the Tunisian people. Too little too late. This is like...Obama when he expressed respect for the Tunisian people minutes after the plane of Bin Ali had left the country.
Posted by As'ad at 8:39 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Google Buzz

Arab nationalism is NOT dead (tell that to Fouad Ajami)
Ever since Ajami wrote that lousy article on the death of Arab nationalism, lazy Western analysts and journalists readily believed him. I have often argued otherwise. If you have been following in Arabic the news coverage and particularly the noise of the Arab youth on Facebook and Twitter you would not have doubted that common Arab political and emotional sentiments are still shared by the Arab people. Most Arabs on Facebook have put the Tunisian flag or the picture of Muhammad Bouazizi as the profile picture.
Posted by As'ad at 8:37 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Google Buzz

On Tunisian Revolution vesus Iranian
Some have sent me asking for reasons for my enthusiasm for the Tunisian Revolution and not for the so-called Green (Early Khumayni) Revolution. Silly ones have suggested reasons having to do with the Arab identity of Tunisians. 1) The last notion is silly. I have been most critical of the Lebanese Cedar Revolution and wrote more against it than about any lousy Revolution, and the Lebanese are Arabs. 2) I judge a revolution by its sponsors: the sponsors of the Lebanese and Green Revolution are US, France, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. 3) I judge the movement by its leaders: Hariri and Musavi and Rafsanjani don't inspire my enthusiasm. The Tunisian Communist Workers Party does. 4) There is no sectarian or religious slogans in the Tunisian movement, while there is plenty in the Green and Cedar revolutions. 5) I like revolutions that concerns Israel and not those that please Israel. 6) I never denied that there are sincere people and youths in the camp of the Green Revolution but that it is led by lousy individuals who raised lousy slogans: (Mousavi and Rafsanjani wanted to go to the early Khumayni "purity" or revolution. That is it.

Aljazeera plus Al-Akhbar plus Wikileaks and Tunisia
Comrade Kamal is right: The brave Tunisian people, Aljazeera (even with a relatively restraint coverage), Al-Akhbar (though its translation and dissemination of the Wikileaks document on corruption in the government), and Wikileaks did Bin `Ali in.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Readymade: Portrait of an old friend.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Former friends have recounted that Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?' "
"A felt need for meant entities may derive from an earlier failure to appreciate that meaning and reference are distinct. Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned."
W.V.O. Quine.
"Einstein tells the story of how Gödel called the game theorist Morgenstern on the evening of his citizenship interview in the United States, to explain how he had discovered a logical problem in the Constitution: a non-standard model that would enable a dictatorship to be created consistently with it. After a period of ill health, he effectively starved himself to death for fear that he was being poisoned."
Entry for Gödel in Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy
"[T]he Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead — or, as I prefer to put it, enduring. It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted."
Antonin Scalia
No word has meaning, each has meanings. Logicians don't understand language, they replace the Platonism of religious authority with the Platonism of numbers, and Quine's holism has the same effect. Scientists are not science; if science is a tool, philosophy must be concerned with the nature of the tool user. Holism, absent the social function of language and thus still "reductionist", is a metaphysical article of faith. His naturalism is anti-political and his politics were predictably lousy.

The only way to eliminate meanings, or freeze them, is to eliminate interpretation as subjective and therefore illogical. The only way to eliminate subjectivity from our experience of social and therefore political life is to lie. Taruskin and Balkin again. And as long as we're on the subject of music, it makes sense that Willard Quine's nephew was a musical puritan and junky.

It's not that Quine's holism is an act of faith as much as that he uses it to defend his faith in philosophy as an independent subject. His arguments are fundamentally perverse: a moralizing defense ex cathedra of the idea of pragmatism, which encouraged the continuing practice of its opposite.

This ended up the beginning of a new tag: Kurt Gödel meet David Addington, though I brought in the Addington reference later. It made me smile that the only other reference I've found to the two of them is in a paper by Balkin and Levinson. Linked here

Saturday, January 08, 2011

As ever, FLC

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A commentor at Crooked Timber, damning me with faint praise
But he’s also basically right on a fairly standard account. Works-of-art involve “ideas” in the Kantian sense, but not in the sense that their “ideas” can be cashed out or encapsulated in standardly cognitive concepts. (And the extent to which they can be so encapsulated counts against the quality of such works, renders them mechanical rather than “organic”,- which, incidentally, is part of the standard objection to allegory). Yes, their reading/reception involves a “play” of our cognitive faculties, but in the mode of reflective and not determinate judgment, as purposeful purposelessness, not subservient to referential functioning.
"Works of art" as opposed to other things, like the Constitution?
Does Nino Scalia lie to himself or only to others?
Repeats: Brad DeLong fundamentalist.
More recently: Richard Taruskin and Jack Balkin.

If it's not written in numerical form, you can't cash it. Nothing "means" now what it "meant" in the past. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, absent later amendments, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and Beethoven's Eroica are not now what they were in 1805. Nothing in the future will "mean" what it does now.

I'm not going to leave this up for long. It's not worth it.
Maybe I will.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Economists debate ethics
“What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.”
Eric Schliesser: "It is always fine to hear economists pretend that financial incentives do not matter."

It would be nice to hear philosophers agree that culture does. Philosophy and economics both pretend to be sciences
The history of modern intellectual life, more even than the history of modernity itself, needs to be written by a historian from Mars. The sociological “history of the present” doesn’t describe the present any more than cognitive science describes the mind. Their processes are akin politically to discussions among whites about the negro problem or men asking “what do women want?” The history of modern Judaism can not be understood without a history of Palestine written by Palestinians. Absent that the best we’ll get is the equivalent of the feminism exclusively of men.
Still working.
More, from the conclusion. I've quoted the passage from Panofsky's essay before but not in this context.
Another example: The logic of modern economic thought begins in acknowledging our tendency towards self-interest, and this understanding has led to a realist acceptance of it. But without an internal adversarialism the result has been a hypertrophied individualism. The optimism of scientific understanding has resulted in an optimism of greed. “Greed exists” becomes “greed is good” which simply reinforces greed without understanding what it does. Here’s Panofsky in his essay on film.
While it is true that commercial art is always in danger of ending up as a prostitute, it is equally true that noncommercial art is always in danger of ending up as an old maid. Non commercial art has given us Seurat's "Grande Jatte" and Shakespeare's sonnets, but also much that is esoteric to the point of incommunicability. Conversely, commercial art has given us much that is vulgar or snobbish (two aspects of the same thing) to the point of loathsomeness, but also Durer's prints and Shakespeare's plays. For, we must not forget that Durer's prints were partly made on commission and partly intended to be sold in the open market; and that Shakespeare's plays -in contrast to the earlier masques and intermezzi which were produced at court by aristocratic amateurs and could afford to be so incomprehensible that even those who described them in printed monographs occasionally failed to grasp their intended significance— were meant to appeal, and did appeal, not only to the select few but also to everyone who was prepared to pay a shilling for admission.

It is this requirement of communicability that makes commercial art more vital than noncommercial, and therefore potentially much more effective for better or for worse.
Greed is an astringent, but it’s not the only one there is. And the work Panofsky praises—Durer and Shakespeare—is not the simplest or most one sided but the most divided within itself. The most telling contradiction in the academic celebration of self-interest is that the academy itself is founded on a collaborative ethic and an ideal of disinterested reason, and it’s this that is claimed as a foundation for the understanding of the pervasiveness of its opposite. The objective elite of scientists/judges prescribes and regulates the subjectivism of others.