Saturday, June 27, 2015

Violence in the political sphere is not going to disappear

My first reread of Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy in nearly 30 years. The refreshing thing about Russell, whatever his faults, is that he is so damn clear. A publisher once remarked that Russell still sells big even now, and it’s actually not hard to see why. Posted by doctorzamalek

A parallel biography of Giordano Bruno and Francisco Suárez.

Both were born in 1548, but they could hardly have led different lives, even though both started out in the priesthood. Bruno’s professional existence was picaresque: beginning with murder accusations in Italy, and extending through humiliation by Calvinists in Geneva and Aristotelians in Paris, the provocation of his hosts in England (where Bruno did his best work), and ultimately arrest and execution after years in a dungeon. He was a literary genius of not much lesser magnitude than Plato or Nietzsche, and heralded a modern philosophy that he was not quite centered enough to piece together in his own mind.

Suárez was initially rejected by the Jesuits for being insufficiently bright, but stayed with the Church and was eventually the hero of the (philosophically underrated) neo-Scholastic resurgence in Spain and Portugal. His multi-volume Metaphysical Disputations was read like adventure novels by the young Leibniz, and thus passed into the heart of modern philosophy along a different path. Presumably he approved of the burning of Bruno in 1600 if he ever heard of it.

Yet there is also a powerful philosophical connection between them on questions of matter and form, and this could be made just as interesting as the striking contrast in the lives and fates of these two children of 1548. Posted by doctorzamalek

For anyone who reads German, the article has now been posted HERE.

As has already been widely discussed in the blogosphere, Günter Figal will not be replaced when he shortly retires from his historically important Freiburg chair.

Admittedly, the story of Heidegger’s politics only gets uglier over time. Some say that we knew it all along, but not really: in the recently published Black Notebooks Heidegger reaches previously unfamiliar lows.


(a) the Freiburg chair was Husserl’s before it was Heidegger’s, and would be historically important through its link with Husserl alone.

(b) Heidegger cannot be airbrushed out of the history of philosophy, and if there is any university chair in the world well-positioned to address the problem posed by this crucial but strangely repellant figure, it is the old Husserl/Heidegger chair in Freiburg.
Posted by doctorzamalek

Eric Schliesser in Amsterdam (who is a leading expert on Adam Smith, among other things) offers THIS POST in response to my Sonic Acts interview in Amsterdam, which touched on politics a bit. Schliesser seems to agree with me on a number of issues, and also adds Frank Knight and J.M. Keynes to the disussion (two figures I never mentioned in Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political).

Schliesser makes at least two possibly useful criticisms of my position. First, he thinks I am wrong to associate public caution with Socratic ignorance; let me think about that one for awhile. Second, he seems to wonder whether it’s true (as I tacitly claim) that academic groupthink is a bigger danger than bad politics of the Rightist variety. I think that depends on the sphere in which one is operating. On specific political issues (the environment, workers’ rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the Egyptian Revolution in its early stages) I often feel drawn to the Left position. The big exception for me is that I’ve never been impressed by the often knee-jerk reactions against the use of violence: e.g., depicting police as primarily and essentially a force of oppression, or reflexive anti-Americanism. It’s easy to take the moral high ground against racist cops or the U.S. military, but I’m more interested in hearing people talk about how they would like to see violence employed. Violence in the political sphere is not going to disappear, and even if the hard Left gets its way, that violence will not consist exclusively in expropriating ill-gotten wealth from Wall Street. You’ll still need to deal with violent criminals, and you’ll still need to deal with genuinely unresolvable violent international conflicts. These sorts of factors are too often missing from Left programs in politics. You have to keep yourself honest in discussing the proper use of force in human affairs, and not just denounce the strongest forces each time they act. That’s just another way of passing on the hard issues of politics by installing oneself on the throne of superior morality.

An anecdote: some of the most thoughtful political thinkers I’ve met in my life have been high-level military officers– in Egypt, in Turkey, and in the United States. Now, it would be easy to denounce that entire profession as a bunch of unhinged aggressors and war-mongers. Yet it has been remarkable to me how un-ideological these officers have been: how in tune they tend to be with reality, and how able to cut through media hysteria and sort true threats from illusory ones. I listened as a right-wing American officer disgustedly dissected the failings of the Bush Administration for which he worked, and from which he eventually resigned. I heard a Turkish officer prudently weigh the various threats along Turkey’s borders in a manner that, while completely convincing, bore no resemblance at all to any account of the region that you’ll find anywhere in the mainstream or even non-mainstream media, but which was based in factual assessments. I even listened in astonishment as an Egyptian general, one of the architects of the surprise 1973 Suez Canal crossing, offered grudging respect to none other than Ariel Sharon: “He defended his people, just as I would defend Egypt.”

What I admire about the military profession as a whole is the way it is constrained by realities instead of by moralisms, including moralisms dressed up as science. Disclaimer: it is not my claim that morality is irrelevant to politics, as some hardcore political realists tend to think. This is why I have critiqued the excessive Hobbesianism of the early Latour. But since the confusion of politics with morality is the bigger excess in academia than right-wing notions, it is just as important to counter Left ideologies in academia as it is to cheer for resistance in the public sphere. This can change as circumstances change. Posted by doctorzamalek

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Orwell and Huxley were right after all

The Romantic Movement itself arose as a reaction against Newton’s materialism as promulgated by advocates of 18th century scientism, but they ended up in the end becoming conservatives longing for a great man like Napoleon and the total state, a secular messiah, to arise. Hegel was just another in a long line of Romantics uniting Hermetic philosophy and the mystical ideas of such seers as Jacob Boehme with Imperialist sympathies. The so called Modernist Movement did the exact same thing in the early 20th century. What we are witnessing today is just another cyclical round of the same anti-science, anti-technological, neo-mystical Medievalist romanticism that we saw at the turn of the 19th century, the early 20th century, then again in the 1960-70’s and now in the early 21st century. In the face of tremendous change and the upheaval brought about through technological advancement it seems human nature likes to turn to an imaginary glorified past, an Eden in which everything was Golden and we lived in a utopia among the gods. 
Hesiod, the ancient mythmaker, in the Theogony spells out this longing for antiquity and Plato takes it up as well. It was thought that the closer to the source of creation you approached, the truer and more golden the age is seen to be. Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s pinning for the tribalist primitive ideal man is just more of this phantasmagorical nonsense that today’s greens spout ad nauseam. Evolution is a One Way Street to the future, there is no going back for humanity, no return to the Garden of Eden which our desire for knowledge kicked us out of, for to try to return would spell disaster. Here’s a fascinating fact: transhumanism is actually an extension and a longing to complete the Hermetic, gnostic and Alchemical vision of antiquity only now it is through the full and complete evolution of science and technology itself that humanity will be transformed and given eternal youth and life. [...]
Utopia lies ahead of us, but it will only come about through evolutionary processes and that was Marx’s and the Classical Liberal’s genius, that they saw this fact, which the techno-optimists have actually proven. That is why my book is so new as it is a corrective to show that in order for the left to be a vital force again, ultimately it has to rediscover elements in its roots. It has to reclaim the Promethean ideal of humanity which Marx, Marxists, the Classical liberals and especially Ayn Rand once espoused and free itself of the nihilism, pessimism, irrationalism and conservative undercurrent that presently infests it and has sapped it of all of its real strength and vitality. [...]
As I state in the book, in the realm of abundance there is no need for the political state as we have known it. It is an old social technology that may have been needed in the realm of scarcity, but will soon not be necessary any longer. The withering away of the state is finally at hand. The natural evolutionary rise of a new distributed system of management gives more and more power and control back to individuals and society. Omniarchy, the rule of all by all, becomes at last feasibly possible due to advancing technology. Here is another area of convergence where the ideas of Marx and libertarians like A. J. Galambos converge, [...]

With prices and profits falling and the possibility of greater technological unemployment, what can the welfare state tax to then redistribute? For example look at New York City’s loss of taxi cab medallion revenue from ride sharing, or loss of state and federal governments taxing and controlling energy as solar power becomes more affordable and efficient. If everyone can become energy independent, or if you can produce more and more of your own products in your own home, and do more and more business with other people directly worldwide, what power does the political class wield anymore? Why do we need any international treaties on trade when the internet is bringing global trade with each other to the fore as a natural evolutionary process? The nation state is also beginning to wither away by this very process; the post office itself is teetering on the brink of dissolution. If the welfare state turns to inflating the money supply to meet its expenses we have an even greater disaster in store. [...]

So what we need to do first I think is to do what Marx said we should do, “Question Everything!” and to take his next sage advice, “That which is leaning, deserves to be pushed!” The worst thing that we could do is to help steady and re-right the leaning political and legal structures of our time, to pour fresh cement into their crumbling foundations.  That would be to support the status quo and that would be disastrous for us, the world and humanity.

What I feel that we must do today to be truly revolutionary is to free ourselves of the baneful ideological poison that comes from the right-wing Hegelians, like Lassalle who worshiped the State, and get back in touch with the left-wing Hegelian’s who foresaw that the State was destined to wither away and a new holographic system, a holoarchy, would arise that would allow individuals to perfect themselves and to become the best they could be in a social and economic structure that gave them the time and abundance to do so.
Techno-progressives understand the need for a clean and healthy environment, But we see the process as evolutionary. As science and technology evolves it becomes more efficient, cleaner, smaller and using less resources per unit. This is upheld by every historic statistic. The neo-primitive ideological narrative is thus a resurgence of Romanticism in modern culture that unfortunately, the way it is portrayed today, threatens humanity's very evolutionary advance to the stars. At ebb tide, where change is happening quickly in society, many humans fear change and long for the very stable and static past. It is a delusion fueled by fear of the unknown, of change, of what the Future requires of us.

India in the post-Marxist era is now free to rediscover its own cultural ethos says @davidfrawleyved in @DailyO_.
Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda provided the foundation before the Marxists. It is time to bring back their influence.