Friday, July 30, 2010

Reports from Farmville, Va

Yo yo.

I'm in Farmville, Virginia. My parents moved here!

The last few days have been very hectic. Lots of moving. I moved out of my house in College Park today.

Then me and my sister drove down here to Farmville to visit my parents. They moved here on Wednesday. Might be some hiccups with my house in CP. Loose ends to tie up, naturally.

Mainly my head is a bit blown right now. I'm really tired. But I felt compelled to write a short post to report on this journey to Farmville.

I will be getting back to MD on Sunday evening. I'll be staying in Baltimore until Saturday August 7th. Then it is off to California. Then from there it is off to Seattle. And from there it is off to new adventures.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "Society Must be Defended" Lectures: This Is Going to be a Long Project

So my series of post's I am working on, which I have called the "Society's Implicit War" posts. It is a series of posts that are all interrelated. At this point I have written chapter 1 of 6. It is a big push for me intellectually because it perfectly captures where I am at in my thought right now.

I am trying to reestablish my personal interest in military history, and trying to combine it with my interest in the historical philosophy of Michel Foucault. It is really strange because Foucault is making it too easy. In Discipline & Punish, Volume I of The History of Sexuality, and in Power/Knowledge Foucault is very regularly referencing war, military institutions, and their relationship to power.

I just got a new set of lectures, however. They are called Society Must be Defended. They are the lectures he gave at the College de France from 1975-76, so just before DnP's and HOS Volume 1's publication.

Either way, the entire series of lectures is devoted to the role of war and the army in the functioning of state power. Lots more discussion of Clausewitz. It is just going to add such depth to my knowledge of Foucault's stance on war. Which is good. Cause these essays are a tricky thing. They are clearly on to something. I just am not really up to par to handle it. So this reading will help me get there. Society Must be Defended will help me become who I need to become to write those essays.

Either way, these essays are going to take a fair amount of time, and I think this extra reading will help me.

It will help me reacquaint myself with the importance of military history, and help me re-merge it with the majority of my thoughts on philosophy of mind, and hopefully everything else.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Pre-Disciplinary Mind

I want this to be brief and relatively unstructured. I have been tossing this phrase around in my mind for a few days now. The 'pre-disciplinary mind'. What I am trying to communicate with this phrase is the way the disciplines used to blend in minds.

Nowadays everyone is so pigeonholed; we have physicists, chemists, mathematicians, philosophers, historians, and so on. Everything is segmented into the dominant disciplines. Everything is so structured. But it didn't used to be this way.

People used to grapple with thought and knowledge as something much larger and trans-disciplinary. Trans-disciplinary isn't even the right term. Because they weren't transgressing any boundaries: there literally were no boundaries. Math flowed into philosophy and literature and everything else.

Thinkers like Descartes, Spinoza, Vico, these men I hear about and have read some writing by, they were mathematicians, philosophers, scientists, literary critics. Their minds were so dynamic and capable of so many different things that I can't do. I can't do the math, the physics. It is fascinating to think about a mind that didn't understand the division of the disciplines the way I do. The way we all do.

I want to know what it was like to have a pre-disciplinary mind. What was it like to not know the distinctions of knowledge, to regard different types of thought as open and porous entities.

Nowadays it is as if each discipline is a tower that he inverted on itself. It only communicates within its own little self contained world. There is very little flow of knowledge and information across disciplines. Especially when it comes to the disciplines that seem distant from one another, like math and science.

But I find it fascinating to try and conceptualize a mind in which all the 'disciplines' as I know them were porous and flowed in and out of one another. Interesting stuff.

Again, this is short. This fits in with a ton of my thinking. Most of my writing prior to this relates to this in some ways.

In many ways I want to have something like a pre-disciplinary mind. But it is impossible. I don't do math well, never learned it very well. But I can try and get as much of a total view as I can of knowledge.

Get closer to this point where knowledge is porous. I want to think about all the disciplines. I can't help but think about all the disciplines.

I want so badly to imagine a way of thinking that isn't limited by the disciplinary boundaries.

You Gotta Fly Like an Eagle... Not Be Like a Turkey

So I'm getting ready to move across the country. Lots of packing. Lots of weird things happening. My parents are moving the day after tomorrow. Then I'm off to do other stuff in Baltimore. I fear that I am in trouble. But I'll be fine, I guarantee it.

My last post was pretty interesting. It is a topic I know somewhat well, military history, but on a scale that I am incapable of properly handling it in. But Foucault generalizes so heavily, and I am simply doing my best to grasp his arguments. Hopefully I'll be able to produce chapters 2-6 on the plane, or on vacation right before I get to Seattle.

But hey, just checking in. Just worried I am not working enough, that I am letting my tasks get behind me. But I'll get it done. I have no choice.

But my writing, my reading. It is tough to not be able to do it. To have to put it on the back seat. To treat it like the secondary priority that it really is. It is a little bit tough, a little bit weird. But I'm eager to make this move successfully.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Society's Implicit War: Foucault's "Discipline & Punish" and Military History - Chapter I

So, I have decided to serially publish this next set of essays that I am working on. I have too much going on right now to finish this project in the next week. I have it planned as being three parts, each consisting of two chapters, so six chapters total, each with a number of sub-sections. I don't know if I'll be able to finish this. Or if it makes any sense.

But I am exploring Foucault as he relates to my understanding of military history. What came through most in my writing on this stuff was my lack of historical knowledge. I just don't know enough about history to be able to write comfortably on this stuff. So here is the whole table of contents, and then just chapter 1. More to come.

Part I: Society’s Implicit War from Monarchy to Republic Republic


1. Society's Implicit War: From Managing to Disguising Civilization's Necessary Violence

Monarchical Violence as War
a. The Original Purpose of Standing Armies
b. Torture and the Monarch’s War Against Domestic 'Enemy Troops'

The Shortcomings of Monarchical Violence
c. The Unpredictability of Physical Violence
d. Capitalism and the Need for a New Political Economy

Prisons as Explicit War
e. Discipline as Emerging From Military Institutions
f. Discipline and Prisons in the Abstraction of Judicial Violence
- Hint at the war of representation and discipline
The Idea of the Social Contract as Disguising the Implicit War
h. Politics as the Continuation of War by Other Means: Disciplinary Society as Waging an Implicit War
- Here we need to write about Clausewitz and the potential for battle

2. The Monarch's Explicit Violence and the Government's Implied Discipline: Truth, Power/Knowledge, and Strategies in Torture and Prison

The Strategy of Torture: Bodies and Discourse
a. The Logic of Torture
b. Torture and the Production of Truth
The Centrality of the Body in Both Torture and Discipline

The Strategy of Prisons: Disciplined Bodies and Discourse
d. Discipline and the Production of Truth About Bodies: Power/Knowledge
- This will be good to have examples of all disciplinary practices - schools, hospitals, etc.
e. Prisons as the Central Disciplinary Institution

Prison’s and Open-Strategies
f. Disciplinary Society’s Open-Strategies: The Worker Ants and the Big Picture
g. Criminals as Integral to Society’s Open-Strategies

Part II: Simulational Mindreading and Control in Torture and Discipline

3. Observation and Simulational Mindreading in Relations of Power/Knowledge
a. Power/Knowledge: Social Understanding and Simulation in Relations With Others in General
b. Power/Knowledge and Simulational Mindreading: Torture and Prisons as Enabling Different Ways of Simulating Other People's Thoughts
c. Observation of Torture and Simulational Mindreading
d. Observation and Simulational Mindreading in Disciplinary Society

- Here we just need to establish generally that observation of other, ie power relations, have to involve simulation, and that torture and prison necessitate different types of simulation

4. From Low-level to High-level Mindreading: From The Spectacle of Torture to The Constant Observation of the Panopticon
a. Torture as Mirror and Resonance Based Mindreading
b. The Panopticon as Enabling Abstract and High-Level Mindreading
c. Panoptic Mindreading for Prisoners and Civilians: Structuring Incarceration and its Representation
d. Observation and Controlling Prisoners Through High-Level Mindreading
- The criminal as something to be controlled through direct application on body
e. Abstract Penal Representation and Controlling the Population With High-Level Mindreading
- The population as something to be controlled through application of representations
- In the whole of section 4 we can establish 1. that it is low- to high-level mindreading, and that both enable different forms of control
- in d we can discuss both simulation to anticipate and mindreading to change minds

Part III: The Pragmatics: Being A Guerrilla of Power/Knowledge

5. Politics as the Continuation of War by Other Means and the 'Politics of Ourselves'
a. Disciplinary Society's Power/Knowledge and our Identity
b. War and Ethics
c. Practices of the Self as a War

6. Intellectual Insurrection: Waging Mental War
a. Histories of the Present as Tools for Battle
b. Freedom Within Open-Strategies
c. Meta-Strategic Thinking
d. The Neural War

That table of contents is interesting and I have a lot to do. But here is my general introduction and chapter 1, the intro chapter, finished.

I'm in way over my head here. - 7/21 - 12:58 pm

So, I finished reading Michel Foucault's Discipline & Punish about a month or so ago. A challenging book that I read slowly over the course of a month. For some reason I have a hard time reading Foucault in long stretches. I sometimes worry this detracts from my ability to understand him fully, but I did my best, and I think I have grasped a number of meaningful arguments from the book.

Now let me say that I studied military history in undergrad. I am inclined to think about things in relation to war and military institutions sometimes. So I find it very curious that my analysis of Discipline & Punish is so centered on war. Nevertheless, I think militaristic themes are surprisingly explicitly in the text, and I think it makes sense in the overarching argument of the book.

Also, I have recently decided (in the last month since finishing this book) that I need to pursue military history at the graduate level. Basically that military history will give me certain tools, certain insights, that will be crucial to the philosophy that I want to ultimately pursue. So, what I'm saying is that I am going to become a military historian so that I can become the kind of philosopher I want to. Sounds crazy to me. I still have some time left before I apply to grad school, but military history may be a very worthwhile path.

Anyways, now I'm going to discuss Foucault's
Discipline & Punish, with a special focus on violence, war, and military institutions. Foucault's history is only of France, so everything involving kings and government's has to do with the French. But I am just speaking in general terms I guess. I am afraid I am generalizing too much, but I am just getting this out there.

First I'm going to argue generally for this notion of society's implicit war: I'll claim that the growth of stable nation-states corresponds with the establishment of reliable militaries because 'government' and 'the state' is in reality a way of waging an ongoing war.

After that I will turn to Foucault's depiction of the transition from medieval torture to modern penal institutions. This transition depends on the emergence of what Foucault calls a 'disciplinary society': a society in which networks of institutions produce a semi-coherent discourse that forces individuals to transform themselves in certain ways (in other words prisons, schools, hospitals, etc., produce discourses of knowledge that enable modern power relations). This notion of a disciplinary society is closely related to Foucault's well known notion of power/knowledge: there is no use of power without a form of knowledge, and no form of knowledge that is not linked with a form power, they are inseparable. After discussing the ideas of disciplinary society and power/knowledge I'll try to make some claims about how they are related to simulation theory of mind. I'll then elaborate the connection between
D&P and simulation by claiming that Foucault's emphasis on the transition from the spectacle of torture the omnipresence of panopticism parallels nicely with Alvin Goldman's distinction between low-level and high-level mindreading. Having (hopefully) connected Foucault and Goldman, I will make some claims about Foucault's practical intention when he refers to 'this insurrection of knowledges against the institutions.' In particular, Foucault means that he is trying to provide us with a set of analytical tools that will let us wage a 'guerilla war' of power/knowledge against the state's discourses of truth. This would involve creative attempts to transcend the limitations of your own thought; it means trying to think things that have never been thought before on a daily basis; challenging the political discourses by exposing their history and specifying their effects; taking an active role in the politics of ourselves; waging an intellectual insurrection in society's implicit war.

1. Society's Implicit War: From Managing to Disguising Civilization's Necessary Violence
Here I want to argue that Western 'civilization' as we know it should actually be thought of as an ongoing war of sorts. In particular, I think that we should start recognizing that, nation-states and governments, as we know them, rather than exclusively working towards the good of their citizens, are actually waging a war against segments of 'their own people.' Supposedly we are all part of the same group, the same nation, the same community, but in reality the government is at war with us. They want us to behave in certain ways, and they take steps to be sure that we behave that way. They have just gotten so good at waging this war that we don't even recognize its coercive or violent elements anymore.

In the age of monarchs, though, it was much clearer that government was in many ways at war with its own population. Monarchical governments also wanted to control people. Their best recourse, however, was physical violence. Revolts had to be suppressed, criminals had to be violently pursued, and bands of marauders were regarded as enemy troops, and guns were the best thing they had. The monarch quite explicitly waged war against certain factions of his own population. Social order in the time of monarchy's, therefore, was maintained by an ongoing war against certain parts of society.

Foucault's main purpose in
Discipline & Punish is to show how this monarchical, explicit war, has been transformed into an implicit war that is waged through the production of elaborate forms of knowledge about bodies. Contemporary nation-states also seek to control their populations, and violence is often the key factor. Knowledge, however, has become a far more important factor in society's implicit war.

So what I'm going to do in this section is generally establish that both medieval monarchs and contemporary nations wage wars against their own population. And that social order seems to depend on the use of physical violence. It doesn't seem like there could be any sort of stable society whatsoever unless there was a government that monopolized armed force and used it against the portions of the population they didn't like. In other words, using
Discipline & Punish I want to claim that all social order depends on physical violence. In the age of monarchs order depended on explicit violence, an explicit war against the home population. In the age of nation-states, however, the violence needed to be disguised, and it had to take on different forms. In the modern era society wages its wars by controlling the different forms of knowledge that people have access to. The modern implicit war is fought through representations of criminality, discourses of discipline that stem not only from prisons, but from schools, hospitals, mental institutions, corporations, so on.

Monarchical Violence as Explicit War
The Original Purpose of Standing Armies

In this section I want to establish something that is fundamental to the rest of the argument, and something that I don't think most people think about. The idea is that prior to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, standing militaries in Europe were meant to suppress internal rebellion just as much as they were meant to fight international wars. In the age of monarchies violent riots and revolutions were a very real possibility. The monarch's standing military forces, therefore, were very actively used to violently suppress internal rebellions. It is as if the king was constantly waging a war against his own people. Even when revolutions lulled, the king's authority still depended on his monopoly on armed force. In short, monarchs explicitly waged war against their own people, and standing military forces, which we think of in terms of 'national security', were originally intended to violently suppress revolutions and ensure the monarch's power.

All I'm trying to say right here is that military forces were originally instruments of internal coercion. Further I think their original purpose is not clear in most people's minds, and we have therefore lost touch with the intense violence that is inseparable from what we know as social order. There is still a lot of violence that is exercised by the government to maintain social order today? So what? I'm not sure about the so what. Just seems like people don't think about militaries in this way anymore, because it is different now. We mostly obey the laws, the big guns come out for international war, but there are still guns at home that are pointed at us. Society still rests on the implicit threat of violence. Everyone knows that if we do something the government doesn't like then someone with a gun is gonna come get us. It is this
possibility for battle, and our knowledge of that possibility, that really seems to keep people in line these days. The government's war against us is implicit now. But that isn't how it used to be. The war waged by the government against their own people used to be very explicit, very obvious. Let me elaborate on this a bit more.

Torture and the Monarch's War Against Domestic 'Enemy Troops'
As I said, the modern state is waging an implicit war, but before the 18th century monarchs waged an explicit war against their people. This is most obvious in the ways that government officials and intellectuals voiced their concerns about criminals and revolutions.

In particular, many people wrote of criminals as if they were enemy troops that they were at war with. Foucault writes, for example, that criminals were perceived to be "quite literally, enemy troops spreading over the surface of the territory, living as they wish, as in a conquered country, exacting levies under the name of alms" (77). Further, one man named Le Trosne wrote of vagabonds "'who live in the midst of society without being members of it', who wage '
a veritable war on all citizens', and who are in the midst of us 'in that state that one supposes existed before the establishment of civil society" (88).

And since criminals were perceived as waging a war against society and the king, the king and the government perceived themselves as waging a war against an internal enemy. "The right to punish, therefore, is an aspect of the sovereign's right to make war on his enemies: to punish belongs to 'that absolute power of life and death which Roman law calls
merum imperium, right by virtue of which the prince sees that his law is respected by ordering the punishment of crime'" (48). The maintenance of social order in the age of monarchs, therefore, depended on a war that was waged, by the king, against certain parts of the population (if not the whole population).

Indeed, public torture and execution were meant to be a display of the king's right to take violent revenge on those who disobeyed his will. Foucault claims that public execution "was logically inscribed in a system of punishment, in which the sovereign, directly or indirectly, demanded, decided and carried out punishments, in so far as it was he who, through the law, had been injured by the crime" (53). The crimes, which were explicit acts of war against the king, were met in kind.

Furthermore, public torture works not only to punish the criminal. Public execution was meant to make an impression on those that witnessed it. It was a political ritual that was meant to remind the population of the violence the sovereign was capable of: "The public execution is to be understood not only as a judicial, but also as a political ritual. It belongs, even in minor cases, to the ceremonies by which power is manifested.... the crime attacks the sovereign: it attacks him personally, since the law represents the will of the sovereign; it attacks him physically, since the force of the law is the force of the prince." (47). Indeed, Foucault believes public execution belongs to a whole set of political and military practices that build and maintain the sovereign's power: "public execution... belongs to a whole series of great rituals in which power is eclipsed and restored (coronation, entry of the kind into a conquered city, the submission of rebellious subjects)...." (48). In short, the king waged war against his own people. He used physical violence in public torture and execution to punish criminals and to remind others that he could hurt them too.

To conclude this sections argument I am going to share two final quotations. They just really make it very explicit that Foucault believed that the king of France waged a very explicit war against his subjects. He compared it to terror, and to war."The ceremony of punishment, then, is an exercise of 'terror'" (49). Torture "was that effect of... a power that asserted itself as an armed power whose functions of maintaining order were not entirely unconnected with the functions of war; of a power for which disobedience was an act of hostility , the first sign of rebellion, which is not in principle different from
civil war... of a power which, in the absence of continual supervision, sought a renewal of its effect in the spectacle of its individual manifestations" (57).
The monarch's ability to observe and control society was limited, so public tortures has to have an effect on public consciousness, it was meant to make people
remember the spectacle of torture and then anticipate the sovereign's reaction if they were to break the law. In other words, witnessing public torture makes you realize you could experience that pain if you offended the sovereign in a similar way. Don't break the government's rules and they wont declare war on you.

At some point in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, public torture ceased to be a thing, incarceration became the main juridical tool, and the monarch's explicit, violent war transformed into society's implicit, knowledge-saturated, discursive war. Next I am going to explore two factors in the change from explicit to implicit war: the problems with excessive physical violence (revolution), and the rise of capitalist economies.

The Shortcomings of Monarchical Violence
The Unpredictability of Physical Violence
First things first, the monarch's explicit war became a big problem when violent revolutions began happening. Public torture, it seems, often turned into a general riot in which the criminal, the executioner, or other government figures could be killed. Torture had the tendency to stir up more violence. People would witness a public execution and people would end up rioting or revolting. Foucault says that, "[t]he public execution is now seen as a hearth in which violence busts again into flame" (9).


Foucault claims that these revolts represent the crowds rejection of the sovereign's power. While these public displays of violence may have been necessary, Foucault also describes their collapse into rioting: "In calling on the crowd to manifest its power, the sovereign tolerated for a moment acts of violence, which he accepted as a sign of allegiance, but which were strictly limited by the sovereign's own privileges. Now it was on this point that the people, drawn to the spectacle intended to terrorize it, could express its rejection of the punitive power and sometimes revolt" (59). Indeed, he says"one finds many examples when the agitation was provoked directly by a verdict and an execution: small, but innumerable 'disturbances around the scaffold'" (60).

Further, the social unrest caused by torture could create stronger bonds among people with revolutionary sentiments. Revolutionary groups began to gain strength around these torture riots. Foucault writes that at these riots the"solidarity of a whole section of the population... was constantly expressed.... And it was the breaking up of this solidarity that was becoming the aim of penal and police repression. Yet out of the ceremony of the public execution, out of that uncertain festival in which violence was instantaneously reversible, it was this solidarity much more than the sovereign power that was likely to emerge with redoubled strength" (63).
Revolts became so frequent that "the physical confrontation between the sovereign and the condemned man must end; this hand-to-hand fight between the vengeance of the prince and the contained anger of the people, through the ediation of the victim and the executioner, must be concluded" (73). In other words, the king begins to lose power by displaying excessive violence, and the people are becoming radicalized into response to violence. New ways of controlling people, new ways of waging war, had to be found.

It started to seem as though "in this violence... tyranny confronts rebellion; each calls forth the other. It is a double danger. Instead of taking revenge, criminal justice should simply punish" (74). The unpredictability of physical violence, therefore, demanded that violence be limited and disguised by a clearly articulated, naturalized, and socially represented punishment.

Capitalism and the Need for a New Political Economy
So, I just told you that revolts were getting out of control and violence displayed in torture was increasing those violent outbreaks. Furthermore, a new economic system was also developing that made the control of bodies a greater priority, and made economic resources a great focus. Crime was beginning to revolve not around murder but property, goods. Foucault claims "offences against property seem to take over from crimes of violence; theft and swindling, from murder and assault" (75). The punishments followed in kind: they began to deprive people of personal and economic freedom. The focus shifted from attacking the body to depriving of money, freedom, and most importantly, a matter of modifying the mind, but that is for later. Capitalism effected this whole process.

Furthermore, this prompted changes across the whole social body. Indeed, the switch from violent crime to economic crime is part of a larger process in which society transforms into a disciplinary society: "the shift from a criminality of blood to a criminality of fraud forms part of a whole complex mechanism, embracing the development of production, the increase of wealth, a higher juridical and moral value placed on property relations, stricter methods of surveillance, a tighter partitioning of the population, more efficient techniques of locating and obtaining information: the shift in legal practices is correlative with an extension and refinement of punitive practices" (77).

In concluding this section I am telling you that the rise of capitalist economies helped usher in an age in which the government could no longer wage an explicit war against their population; the government had to control the population in ways that lined up with the new capitalistic economy. Incarceration and discipline therefore became the dominant penal methods, and torture became a thing of the past. "With the new forms of capital accumulation, new relations of production and the new legal status of property, all the popular practices that belonged, either in silent, everyday, tolerated form, or in a violent form, to the illegality of rights were reduced by force to an illegality of property.... the economy of illegalities was restructured with the development of capitalist society" (87). Property becomes more important, the body less important, and therefore discipline that works without recourse to violence, but works rather through deprivation of personal, political, and economic freedom.

So capitalism contributed to the rise of disciplinary society. But what caused it? Where did the model of discipline come from? How did discipline emerge from nothing? What was the first institution to try and discipline bodies?

In this subsection 'The Shortcomings of Monarchical Violence' I have tried to argue that the unpredictability of torture and the rise of capitalist economies made the Monarch's explicit violence ineffective and dangerous. The king or the government could now be totally overthrown in a violent revolt if they engaged in public torture and execution. The war against his own population, therefore, had to be reconfigured. Social order could no longer be maintained through excessive displays of physical violence. New methods had to be created that could instill discipline in society with observation and the production of knowledge. The explicit war had to be made implicit. Prisons were the eventual result of this. So how does the prison system help wage war?

Prisons as Implicit War
In this section I'm going to explore how the prison system plays a role in society's implicit war. What role does it play in establishing discipline in society that can disguise the violence that is involved in social order. First I'm going to discuss military institutions and how they contributed to the model of discipline that would eventually govern many institutions. Then I'm going to talk about how, when applied to penal institutions, is able to mask and legitimate the government's use of force. Then I'm going to discuss the idea of the social contract and how it plays a part in disguising the implicit war. Lastly I'm going to summarize the whole section and offer some thoughts on the overarching notion of implicit war. That will cap off the introductory section of the first chapter. From there I will move on to chapter two, which will specify how both the explicit war and implicit war are waged through truth and knowledge about bodies. That section will allow me to establish the connections between truth, observation, and power. From there I will move on to establish the relationship to simulation theory of mind, and then from there the pragmatics. So, here we go, on to finish the section on Prisons as War.

Bodily Discipline as Emerging From Military Institutions

Now seeing as how the overarching argument of this whole piece is that social order is maintained by an internal war that operates through discipline, it seems appropriate that military institutions would provide the original model for the coercion of bodies. This also lines up with things I have heard about Weber, and how he regarded the Prussian army's influence on government (in that he thought they provided an ideal bureaucratic model). Foucault also makes this point quite clear: that the military provided the ideal model for the forms of discipline that were later adopted by educational, medical, and economic institutions.

In his opening chapter to the section titled "Discipline" Foucault immediately discusses the new levels of discipline attained by military institutions in the eighteenth century. He claims that by "the late eighteenth century, the solider has become something that can be made out of a formless clay, an inapt body, the machine required can be constructed; posture is gradually corrected; a calculated constraint runs slowly through each part of the body, mastering it, making it pliable, ready at all times, turning silently into the
automatism of habit; in short, on has 'got rid of the peasant' and given him 'the air of the soldier'" (135). In other words the soldier is now something that can be crafted, molded, created from a peasant. The military allows people to notice for the first time how plastic people are and how much they can be modified by disciplinary coercion.

Again, Foucault claims that the military was one of the first institutions to provide models for discipline, and in particular, the measurement of time. He writes of the Prussian military reforms of the eighteenth century, "this regulation of the time of an action that was so important
in the army and which was to be so throughout the entire technology of human activity: the Prussian regulation of 1743 laid down six stages to bring the weapon to one's foot, four to extend it, thirteen to raise it to the should, etc." (154). The model of instructing a solider to use a rifle showed that efficiency of movement could be achieved, that people could be timed and taught to do things faster, provided a way of measuring time that Foucault believes penetrates the entire social body. Indeed, in section two I'll talk about the measurement of time and how it fits into modern disciplinary society.

But here I still want to show that Foucault believed the military was the first and strongest form of discipline. He says that the ways that discipline controls time, bodies, accumulation and duration "emerge most clearly in military organization" (157). Further, military organization provided the mechanistic model of organization, "the unit – regiment, battalion, section and, later, 'division' – became a sort of machine with many parts, moving in relation to one another, in order to arrive at a configuration and to obtain a specific result. What were the reasons for the mutation?" (162). People could conceptualize organizations as large, interrelated systems, and the military may have done it first.

The invention of new military technology also played a role in bringing about modern models of discipline: "the invention of the rifle: more accurate, more rapid than the musket, it gave greater value to the soldier's skill; more capable of reaching a particular target, it made it possible to exploit fire-power at an individual level; and, conversely, it turned every soldier into a possible target, requiring by the same token greater mobility; it involved therefore the disappearance of a technique of masses in favour of an
art that distributed units and men along extended, relatively flexible mobile lines" (163). Thus Foucault concludes, "Discipline is no longer simply an art of distributing bodies, of extracting time from them and accumulating it, but of composing forces in order to obtain an efficient machine" (164). Discipline becomes the construction of a machine that runs like an army.

The organization of these institutions was actually conceptualized in military terms, tactics, and command being the most important. Foucault writes, "Tactics, the art of constructing, with located bodies, coded activities and trained aptitudes, mechanisms in which the product of the various forces is increased by their calculated combination are no doubt
the highest form of disciplinary practice" (167). Not only does the military provide the strongest model for disciplining individual bodies (with tactics), but it also provides a model of command. Disciplinary power functions on "a precise system of command" for which military hierarchical structure may have been a model.

So this is a quotation heavy section, but I think because it is an important theme, and something Foucault stresses. In this last section I have tried to show that the disciplinary techniques that Foucault believes permeated society stem originally from forms of military organization. Now I'm going to discuss how prisons used these models of discipline wage a war.

Discipline and Prisons in the Abstraction of Judicial Violence
When physical violence has become too dangerous and economically unsound, the government had to find ways of controlling the population that were more reliable and less blatantly violent. Foucault proposes that many institutions adopted 'disciplinary' practices. Schools, hospitals, workshops, and prisons all adopted a model of organization that maximized surveillance, closely monitored time and movement, and labeled and explored each individual person. In essence, these institutions started establishing large bodies of knowledge that allowed for bodies to be regulated more precisely. Foucault believes that these knowledge building, disciplinary societies allowed social control to take on a new form. It led Foucault to conclude the knowledge and power are inseparable. He speaks of power/knowledge, and I'll have plenty to say about that in a little bit. Right now, in this section, I just want to argue that the switch to modern prison based systems still amounts to a war. In order to pursue this question I need to examine how it is that legal punishment becomes conceptually disassociated from the violence it relies on. As Foucault says, in the modern age, "Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process." As a result, "it leaves the domain of more or less everyday perception and enters that of abstract consciousness.... As a result, justice no longer rakes public responsibility for the violence that is bound up with its practice" (9). I want to know if it is still war even though it has successfully distanced itself from its necessary violence. Much of Foucault's discussion of the prison system confirms that it retains an element of violence, and that it constitutes a war that is being waged by the government against it's own people.

Prison's are able to avoid a violent reputation partly due to the transition to capitalism. Foucault writes that
"offences against property seem to take over from crimes of violence; theft and swindling, from murder and assault" (75). Because crime is becoming less violent and more economic, prison's are able to endorse a similar form of punishment. Many people noted that the legal system's lack of violence was due to greater 'leniency'. Foucault, however, argues that this 'leniency' simply reflects the government's new priorities – namely, the preservation of bodies for the use in the economy. Foucault says the development of leniency was part of "a double movement by which, during this period, crimes seemed to lose their violence, while punishments, reciprocally, lost some of their intensity, but at the cost of greater intervention" (75). So is the prison system really less violent? or does it still constitute a war?

Foucault agrees. He claims that there is still "a trace of 'torture' in the modern mechanisms of criminal justice – a trace that has not been entirely overcome, but which is enveloped, increasingly, by the non-corporal nature of the penal system." Because the body itself is no longer physically destroyed by judicial punishment people believe that it no longer involves the use of violence. The war, however, is being waged on an even deeper level, because it has become"a punishment that acts in depth on the heart, the thoughts, the will, the inclinations" (16). The prison system is above all meant to produce a body of abstract knowledge that transforms violence and coercion into a set of institutions meant to transform individuals.

Society's war against its own population, therefore, has been abstracted by the modern prison systems. We still have violent means of coercion all around us, we just aren't tapped into it. Prisons disguise this implicit war by naturalizing it, abstracting it, making us believe that is accomplishing a certain goal, rehabilitating a certain set of people with certain 'problems' or 'illnesses'. I'll have a whole section on power/knowledge, so for now in this section I just need to establish that prisons have managed to make the social war more abstract, and have therefore disassociated prisons from violence. It is still a form of war, however. It is still a means of battling certain parts of the population.

Next I'm going to discuss the notion of the social contract and how it has functioned as a way of conceptualizing, masking, abstracting, the constant war that society is engaged in. After that I'll summarize the whole chapter and wrap up the major argument about the warlike nature of peace and order. After that I'll specify the ways that the war is waged (open-strategies, modifying forms of simulation), and my practical suggestions.

The Idea of the Social Contract and Disguising the Implicit War
In the previous section I wanted to establish that prison systems effectively disguise the violence that society uses. It seems, however, that the force wielded by the government is more often legitimized with the idea of the social contract. In this section I want to draw on some of Focault's reflections on the social contract. Ultimately, I want to refute the notion of the social contract because I think it is a way of explaining away the violence that constitutes social order. Who signed this contract with the government? Since when did we agree to give up our power to revolt? Weren't people coerced into not revolting? Weren't people killed for revolting? Perhaps this notion of the social contract was only conceptualized after people were already coerced into these 'democratic' situations? Since when does the government concede things to us? Since when does the government act in everyone's best interest? Never, because that isn't how government got its start. It started as a group of people waging violent war against other people living near them. Their explicit war was eventually transformed into an implicit war, and the social contract was a nice way of explaining it.

The social contract supposedly offered a way for the government and the people to have a healthy relationship with power and violence. Often people associate the social contract with the rise of something like 'humanism' or a concern for the welfare of people. This might be true, but Foucault believes that humanism and the social contract are inadequate for describing modern power relations.
Humanism, as we like to think of it, is only a matter of repositioning the economy of power: "If the law must now treat in a 'humane' way an individual who is 'outside nature' (whereas the old justice treated the 'outlaw' inhumanely), it is not on account of some profound humanity that the criminal conceals within him, but because of a necessary regulation of the effects of power. It is this 'economic' rationality that must calculate the penalty and prescribe the appropriate techniques. 'Humanity' is the respectable name given to this economy and to its meticulous calculations" (92). Government had to abandon violent penal methods because the threat of revolution was too great. Humanism merely is a rationalization of this modification of penal methods, which was 'economic' in its logic.

Further, Foucault believes that we need to give up on the notion of the social contract. He writes that in order to understand modern power relations we have to abandon
"the violence-ideology opposition, the metaphor of property, the model of the contract or of conquest;...." (28). This is because modern penal practices depend more on the coercion of individuals. We are not rehabilitating individuals to fit in with our social model, we are coercing individuals into thinking of themselves and others in certain ways:"And, ultimately, what one is trying to restore in this technique of correction is not so much the juridical subject, who is caught up in the fundamental interests of the social pact, but the obedient subject, the individual subjected to habits, rules, orders, an authority that is exercised continually around him and upon him, and which he must allow to function automatically in him" (128-9).

The body is still the ultimate place where power is exercised. The social contract is a nice idea, it sounds warm and cozy and makes society sound like a good old time where we all agree to be certain ways and give up certain rights to gain certain rights. But whatever, I don't buy it. Neither does Foucault: "The real, corporal disciplines constituted the foundation of the formal, juridical libraries. The contract may have been regarded as the ideal foundation of law and political power; panopticism constituted the technique, universally widespread, of coercion" (222). In other words, the body still must be disciplined, people must still be controlled. But violence doesn't get it done anymore. And the 'social contract' sure as hell doesn't get it done. But the panopticon – the perfect tool of constant surveillance – makes it possible to coerce and discipline bodies without violently destroying them.

So I've told you the social contract doesn't adequately describe power relations. And I have told you that violence is still the fundamental thing in the modern judicial system. Now I'll summarize this section, cap this chapter off with a redoubled explanation of how society is waging an implicit war.

Politics as the Continuation of War by Other Means: Disciplinary Society as Waging an Implicit War
Now, I have just sketched out generally Foucault's depiction of the transition from torture to prison. The monarch waged an explicit war against his own people, and displayed his personal revenge against offenders in public spectacles of torture. In the modern age, after monarchs, the war against segments of the own population is able to go implicit. The monarch's violence became unpredictable in its tendency to cause a revolution, and it was no longer economically sound with the rise of capitalist economies. New methods of control had to be found, new ways of waging war against the home population had to be conceptualized. The military itself provided a ready made model of discipline that could be applied to many other social institutions (like hospitals, schools, police forces, prisons, etc.). The prison gave rise to an abstract body of knowledge that was able to disassociate the use of penal justice from the violence that it relied on. As a result, judicial practices are no longer thought of as explicitly violent, the war is now implicit. Further, the notion of the social contract functioned to further hide the violent and coercive nature of modern institutions. Now, lastly, I want to cap this first chapter by clarifying this notion of implicit war, and offering some evidence that Foucault, and others, regard society as waging a war against its own population, albeit in a new form.

The prison systems wage their war against society with the support of a whole series of other institutions that are medical, educational, and legal in nature. More or less, all of these institutions fall under the locus of the state. They are political institutions in the broadest sense – they regulate relations of power between individuals. While originally the monarch's war was explicit, this series of institutions also wages an implicit war of sorts. Foucault writes that the transition from the explicit to the implicit war was a gradual process, but one that always includes violence and war. He writes that "from fiscal illegality to customs illegality, to smuggling, to looting, to the armed struggle against the government's taxation agents, then against the soldiers themselves and, finally, to rebellion, there was a continuity, in which it was difficult to mark the frontiers;...." (83). In other words, both the monarch's violence and the governments institutional apparatuses are a way of waging war.

Indeed, even this transition from an explicit war to an implied war waged by a network of institutions took force to implement. Foucault writes that "although the new criminal legislation appears to be characterized by less severe penalties, a clearer codification, a marked diminution of the arbitrary, a more generally accepted consensus concerning the power to punish..., it is sustained in reality by an upheaval in the traditional economy of illegalities and a rigorous application of force to maintain their new adjustment" (89). This transition to a 'less violent' judicial system is driven primarily by violence itself.

Furthermore, some Frenchmen of the eighteenth century thought of criminals as enemy troops, and as their struggle against them as a form of war
. One Frenchmen, for example, wrote, "'Every malefactor, by attacking the social rights, becomes, by his crimes, a rebel and a traitor to his country; by violating its laws he ceases to be a member of it; he even makes war upon it. In such the case the preservation of the state is inconsistent with his own, and one or the other must perish; in putting the guilty to death we slay not so much the citizen as the enemy'" (90). This new war against crime, however, differs from the monarch's war in its justifications.

Foucault discusses how the monarch's war was always an individual declaration of war that pitted the sovereigns body against the body of the condemned. Modern penal practice, however, involves a set of institutions that collectively declare war against an individual without saying so explicitly: the modern war of institutions is implicit. Foucault concludes, "The right to punish has been shifted from the vengeance of the sovereign to the defence of society. But it now finds itself recombined with elements so strong that it becomes almost more to be feared. The malefactor has been saved from a threat that is by its very nature excessive, but he is exposed to penalty that seems to be without bounds. It is a return to a terrible 'super power'. It brings with it the need to establish a principle of moderation for the power of punishment" (90).

Foucault again describes this transition from monarchy to republic, and explains how these systems of punishment functioned in different ways. "We have, then, the sovereign and his force, the social body and the administrative apparatus; mark, sign, trace; ceremony, representation, exercise; the vanquished enemy, the juridical subject in the process of requalification, the individual subjected to immediate coercion; the tortured body, the soul with its manipulated representations, the body subjected to training. We have here the three series of elements that characterize the three mechanisms that face one another in the second half of the eighteenth century. They cannot be reduced to theories of law (though they overlap with such theories), nor can they be identified with apparatuses or institutions (through they are based on them), nor can they be derived from moral choices (through they find their justification in morality). They are modalities according to which the power to punish is exercised: three technologies of power" (131). Interestingly, Foucault notes that there are three major forces that interact to produce disciplinary society. Theories of law provide a body of knowledge, while institutional apparatuses implement them, and while moral systems enact them on an individual level.

This new system of punishment, however, operates much more generally in the social body. So many institutions contain traces of this new disciplinary style. Our society has effectively become a carceral society, a society centered on prisons and incarceration. Foucault writes that "a whole set of regulations and by empirical and calculated methods relating to the army, the school and the hospital, for controlling or correcting the operations of the body" (136). These methods of controlling the body, which reach their apex in prison systems, are spread throughout all of society. All of society functions based on a series of institutions that control behavior through the production of knowledge."The human body," Foucault claims, "was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it" (138).

The generality of these disciplinary mechanisms, and their realtioship to war in general, could be seen in educational institutions too. Many institutions adopt the model of war and armies, and they therefore behave like war. In Jesuit Colleges, for example, classes competed among themselves, 300 in a whole class split into groups of 10. "The general form was that of war and rivalry; work, apprenticeship and classification were carried out in the form of the joust, through the confrontation of two armies; the contribution of each pupil was inscribed in this general duel; it contributed to the victory or defeat of a whole camp; and the pupils were assigned a place that corresponded to the function of each individual and to his value as a combatant in the unity group of his 'decury'" (146). This example makes it clear that the model of war permeated society in many different ways – our most prominent institutions use war and the military as a model for conduct.

Foucault explicitly claims that the military served as a model of discipline that was then superimposed on society as a whole.
"In the great eighteenth-century states," he argues, "the army guaranteed civil peace no doubt because it was a real force, an ever-threatening sword, but also because it was a technique and a body of knowledge that could project their schema over the social body" (168). In addition to bearing physical violence, the military also provides a model of discipline and control of bodies. This imposition of military standards on the rest of society becomes even clear when Foucault says, "The classical age saw the birth of the great political and military strategy by which nations confronted each other's economic and demographic forces; but it also saw the birth of meticulous military and political tactics by which the control of bodies and individual forces was exercised within states" (168). The rise of modern military forces has great implications for the general structure of society.

Foucault believes that this military society has been overlooked by many philosophers and historians. He criticizes them for relying too readily on the notion of the social contract.
"Historians of ideas," he writes, "usually attribute the dream of a perfect society to the philosophers and jurists of the eighteenth century; but there was also a military dream of society; its fundamental reference was not to the state of nature, but to the meticulously subordinated cogs of a machine, not to the primal social contract, but to indefinitely progressive forms of training, not to the general will but to automatic docility" (169). Indeed, legal philosophers attempted to build a model of a just society, but that is only part of the story: "While jurists or philosophers were seeking in the pact a primal model for the construction or reconstruction of the social body, the soldiers and with them the technicians of discipline were elaborating procedures for the individual and collective coercion of bodies" (169). Modern society as we know it is far more warlike than we typically recognize.

Although the new legal systems enforced their punishments with less violent methods, they still implicitly or explicitly made reference to violence, battle, and war. As a result, schools, hospitals, and prisons all adopted the military model of organization
. Observation became more important than anything else, and the production of knowledge and discipline began to rule people more than explicit violence. Just because the state's use of violence is now implicit, however, does not mean that it is no longer at war. Just because 'politics' as we know it seems to have established internal 'peace' and thus gotten rid of 'war', doesn't mean that politics is not in itself a form of war. For this is exactly what Foucault claims. "It may be that war as strategy is the continuation of politics (Clausewitz). But it must not be forgotten that 'politics' has been conceived as a continuation, if not exactly and directly of war, at least of the military model as a fundamental means of preventing civil disorder. Politics, as a technique of internal peace and order, sought to implement the mechanism of the perfect army, of the disciplined mass, of the docile, useful troop, of the regiment in camp and in the field, on manoeuvres and on exercises"" (168, I added the bracket that says Clausewitz, cause that what he is referencing). This new system of institutions that governs out political lives successfully hides the physical violence that it requires. All of our social order depends on the government's ability to hurt people, to kill people.

I find it interesting that Foucault hints at Clausewitz. In some essays from Power/Knowledge he discusses Clausewitz's work even more explicitly. I'll perhaps turn to that later. But for now I want to share something about Clausewitz that Foucault never mentions. I am going to use this to answer the question, what does it mean to be at war? If society is waging a permanent war against its own population, how do we know? What does it mean to be at war.

Well, Clausewitz says you are at war if there exists the potential for battle. If battle could possibly happen, then you are at war. Because there have been wars in which there was no battle (but it was still a war) you need a definition that can accommodate this fact. So, this definition leaves room for that. We are at war if there exists the possibility for battle.

Now let me ask you this: at what point in our society is there not the potential for battle? At what point could we kill someone and not expect men with guns to respond? At what point can we break the law and not expect for someone with guns to come for us? Why is it that when two men show up at a bank with assault rifles, dozens of men with guns and bigger guns show up. Why does the SWAT team show up whenever something bad happens. Because in our society there is always the potential for battle, there is always the possibility that someone will come do battle with you if you want to do it. And we, therefore, are always at war with our own government. We have been pacified into peace, a forgetful peace in which we don't remember this violence that is all around us, keeping us all in line.

In conclusion, all political power rests on the ability of a nation to make war, even if it means making war against their own population. In this section I have argued that society is indeed waging a war against its own population. That we, as subjects of legal power, are at war with the state. The only thing is that the state had to find a better way of waging this war against us. Torture was sloppy and unpredictable, revolutions got out of control, bodies became too important in the economy
. Fortunately (for those in power), military institutions provided a perfect model of discipline that could be spread to the rest of society. This allows the penal institutions to build up a disciplined and abstract body of knowledge that distanced the prison systems from the violence that is inherent to their maintenance. Further, the notion of the social contract helped stabilize this new implicit war being waged by our disciplinary society. Lastly, I summarized the argument in this section. The model of war and military institutions pervades our society. And this is because our nation-state is inseparable from a state of war. The state is at war with us, and always will be.

From here I have quite a lot of writing left to do. This is chapter 1 of 6. In the next section I am going to explain more precisely how these two different types of war, torture and prisons, are waged. In particular, I am going to discuss how they exercise power, wage their war, through forms of representation and discourse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm Not Really Tweaking

Nah I'm chillin. Things are starting to get done. I am still working on practical stuff.

I am also working on this big essay on society's implicit war too.

My room looks totally different right now, it is weird.

I just wanted to confirm that I'm not tweaking. Just working. Lots of different types of work and fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Intense and Temporary Tweaking

My days are very numbered. I am going to be moving away from College Park in two weeks exactly.

Sometimes I tweak out a little bit. I get stressed, I feel stressed. It is the uncertainty, mainly.

I just have no idea where I am going to be in 6 weeks. I know that in 3 weeks I'll be in California at my family reunion. I know that in 5 weeks I'll be arriving in Seattle with my aunt to begin my attempt at living on my own, far, far away.

It all feels very strange. Something I can't think about. Something I have no idea how to imagine.

It is probably effecting my thoughts and emotions in ways I can't detect precisely.

Also, my post on Foucault and implicit war has the potential to be 50 or more pages. Just based on the outline and the number of quotations I already have to support my claims. It is just gonna be a beast. I wonder if I can finish it before I get to Seattle. I wonder when I will finish it.

Either way, it marks a monumental move in my thinking.

Namely, that I now know suspect I need to become a military historian. That this will let me go places that I want to go with my mind. It is all very uncertain, but all very good.

Military history served me soo well in undergrad. And Foucault's work in Discipline & Punish has so many themes that I am familiar with from thinking about war and militaries.

Either way, I am curious as to how this enormous bit of writing will meld in my memory of these moments. These incredibly eventful moments, these fresh times, these forever confusions.

I'll associate this time with lots of things, and perhaps I can associate this wild move with this wild bit of writing on Foucault. Or at least the approach to moving as the approach of my rekindled love for the history of war and battle.

Ahem, or shall I say, the history of society as the history of one large war.

Anyways, time time to put some more real work into my big post.

Wanted to reflect for a minute though.

Because my life has so much gravity that goes so far beyond my writing.

My writing doesn't even feel like it belongs to the same space.

It is some abstraction drifting separately from my panicked pragmatic self that needs to move across the country safely.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Post New Post Oh Boy

So my next substantial post that I am working is an analysis of Foucault's Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. My analysis of the book is going to revolve around my experience with military history. In particular, I am curious about what I am calling 'society's implicit war', ie all of the violent and coercive elements that are necessary to maintain social order, and how they don't really register on us with a regular basis. Prisons, militaries, police, all have become so ubiquitous that we don't find them troubling anymore.

But think about it, if we don't do certain things people will hurt us. Plain and simple.

Anyways, it is gonna be a monster. Here is a working outline/table of contents that I am working with. As I continue to skim the rest of the book the latter half of the outline may expand with more subsections – but right now I have quite a lot of structure to work with, it is going well. I am in the quote gathering phase. Skimming the whole book and placing quotes in appropriate sections. Then I will start the real writing. Maybe tomorrow. Either way.

Title: Society's Implicit War: Foucault's "Discipline & Punish" and Military History

Part I: Society’s Implicit War from Monarchy to Republic
1. Society's Implicit War: From Managing to Disguising Civilization's Necessary Violence

Monarchical Violence as War
a. The Original Purpose of Standing Armies
b. Torture and the Monarch’s War Against Domestic 'Enemy Troops'

The Shortcomings of Monarchical Violence
c. The Unpredictability of Physical Violence
d. Capitalism and the Need for a New Political Economy
e. Discipline as Emerging From Military Institutions


Prisons as War
f. Prisons and the Abstraction of Judicial Violence
g. The Idea of the Social Contract as Disguising the Implicit War
h. Politics as the Continuation of War by Other Means: Disciplinary Society as Waging an Implicit War


2. The Monarch's Violence and the Government's Discipline: Truth, Power/Knowledge, and Strategies in Torture and Prison

The Corporeal Strategy of Torture
a. The Logic of Torture
b. Torture and the Production of Truth
c. The Centrality of the Body in Both Torture and Discipline

The Representative Strategy of Discipline
d. Discipline and the Production of Truth About Bodies: Power/Knowledge
e. Disciplinary Society’s Open-Strategies: The Worker Ants and the Big Picture
f. Criminals as Integral to Society’s Open-Strategies


Part II: Simulational Mindreading and Control in Torture and Discipline

3. Observation and Simulational Mindreading in Relations of Power/Knowledge
a. Power/Knowledge: Social Understanding and Simulation in Relations With Others in General
b. Power/Knowledge and Simulational Mindreading: Torture and Prisons as Enabling Different Ways of Simulating Other People's Thoughts
c. Observation of Torture and Simulational Mindreading
d. Observation and Simulational Mindreading in Disciplinary Society

4. From Low-level to High-level Mindreading: From The Spectacle of Torture to The Constant Observation of the Panopticon
a. Torture as Mirror and Resonance Based Mindreading
b. The Panopticon as Enabling Abstract and High-Level Mindreading
c. Panoptic Mindreading for Prisoners and Civilians: Structuring Incarceration and its Representation
d. Observation and Controlling Prisoners Through High-Level Mindreading
e. Abstract Penal Representation and Controlling the Population With High-Level Mindreading

Part III: The Pragmatics: Being A Guerilla of Power/Knowledge

5. Politics as the Continuation of War by Other Means and the 'Politics of Ourselves'
a. Disciplinary Society's Power/Knowledge and our Identity
b.War and Ethics
c. Practices of the Self as a War

6. Intellectual Insurrection: Waging Mental War
a. Histories of the Present as Tools for Battle
b. Freedom Within Open-Strategies
c. Meta-Strategic Thinking
d. The Neural War


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lets Make It Ice

Ice Like Fire.

Either way I just wanted to type rapidly for a minute.

My last post was an interesting exercise. Got me to talk about somethings that I really like to think about.

My next post, however, seems even crazier and more interesting to me.

The title: "Society's Implicit War: Foucault's Discipline & Punish and Military History"

I have about 4 pages so far and the outline is looking pretty potent. So I feel good about it.

I'm supposed to go to work at 2:30 and don't feel like it. Probably will just end up going.

But I would rather get other things done today. My parents move in exactly two weeks from today. So I need to get down to business and get all my stuff together so I can get ready to move. Word. Well.

Whatever, get ready for a big post on military history.

And get ready for me to take a break from blogging so that I can move across the country?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In Defense of Thinking A Lot, Or, How I Might Control My Mind

7/11/10 - Final Note and Introduction

This might just be my realest flow ever. When I say fo' life, ya'll say fo' eva.

Honestly, for me, this is one of the most interesting things I have written in a while. It felt very personal throughout. I feel like this is autobiographical in many ways. I am essentially trying to explicate my own thought processes, my own experiences with emotions and thoughts. All of this writing is grounded in my reading of many authors. Most of my other posts refer explicitly to authors and their work. But in this one I went purely on my own. No quotations really, no formal discussions of authors. This is just me. Needless to say, however, all my favorite authors permeate this writing in many ways. But anyways, here is a table of contents:

1. The Quantity of Thought
2. The Quality of Thought
2a. The Experience of Thought
2b. The Content of Thought
2c. The Effects of Thought
3. The Tendency to Intuitively Simulate Other Minds, Or, On Being Naturally Empathic
4. Being Okay With The Egocentric Nature of Social Thinking
5. Forgiving Everyone for Everything: Creative Empathy and Finding Peace With Pain
6. Thoughts, Emotions, and Control: This Doesn't Work How I Was Told!
7. Control, Relabeling, and Mindfulness: Controlling Thoughts and Emotions as Actively Creating and Transforming the Self
8. New Concepts as New Brains: Neuroplasticity and Control as Transformation
9. The Quest for Endless Novelty: Controlling the Self as Mindful and Perpetual Transformation


Sporadic note taking from between 6/8/10 and 6/30 or so.

Lol me and someone totes had this talk at work where we dabbled into the frustrations of being a sensitive person. She has often been told of the benefits but rarely experiences them for herself. How to explain this? How does embracing pain become embracing sensitivity etc?

So you are telling me I am not in 'control' like I was led to believe? are you serious? But wait, you are telling me that if I can recognize that and reconceptualize control and freedom accordingly, I can begin to exert meaningful effort over my mind and my life? Well, then. Where do we go from here? You tell me.

Frightened Rabbit: If you don't stare at the dark if you never feel bleak life starts to lose its taste.

We need an education system that makes people more dissatisfied. we need an education system that transforms people and makes them think differently and makes them pay attention. if paying attention makes people more dissatisfied then good, we need more social rights battles. wars make people pay attention to inequality, we don't need more war with guns, we need more war with thoughts.

7/8/10 - Begin real writing

The Quantity of Thought
So, this essay is based on the questions, do I think too much? Do you think too much? Do we feel or think too much sometimes? Why is it bad to think too much? How do you quantify thought in any case?

I was sometimes told that I thought too much. Sure, sometimes it may lead to a little anxiety, a little nervousness, or maybe just a feeling of being overwhelmed. But still, I don't really buy this statement. I don't think I think too much. Sometimes, however, I do need to rain my thoughts in, get a grip on them, prevent them from running amok in my mind. Cause that can happen. Thought can dominate me, overcome me, wreck me. But for the most part I think I keep it under check, and that I like thinking a lot. I'll talk about quantity of thought more in this writing.

But I think that more important than the quantity of thought is the quality of thought. What is it like? How do you experience it? rapidly? imaginatively? egocentrically? What are your thoughts usually about? Where does your mind drift naturally? Does it stay isolated or does it uncontrollably think of others? How do your thoughts effect you? How does it make you feel? Good? Bad? These are the more important questions I think. So I'll be exploring them.

The Quality of Thought
So under this heading I am going to explore three different aspects of the quality of thought. The first is the experience of thought, what it is like for us. Second is the content of thought, its subject matter, etc.. Third will be the effects of thought, how it makes us feel about ourselves and others.

The Experience of Thought
So, the experience of thought. In this section I want to explore how it is that, for me, thought is simply something I experience, not something I create or do. My thoughts rush at me rapidly and unexpectedly. I could be doing one thing thinking one thing and suddenly be locked into doing another thing. My thought is totally random sometimes, I make connections without an awareness of how, I have new ideas without any sense of a source. My imagination takes me in all kinds of different directions: to other times and places, to other people's minds, to all sorts of memories, to all kinds of fanciful daydreams.

In this section I am simply claiming that thought is not something we actively create or do, but something that is experienced. It just happens to me.

When someone tells you that you think too much, therefore, they are not recognizing that thought is often not actively created but passively received and experienced.

I do believe, however, that thought can be active. That we can do it, make it happen. But I think that comes most easily after we recognize that thought often happens in ways that we don't control. Before we can change our thoughts we need to analyze our thoughts. Since thought exists before we create it we must treat it as an already formed object. Just like we have to get to know the consistency of a piece of clay before we turn it into a piece of pottery, we have to get to know our thoughts before we can modify them.

So, in these next two sub-sections I am elaborating on ways that thought happens without our control. In essence I feel like this section on the quality of thought is meant to provide a set of concepts that can help me analyze my (unconscious) thought. Once I have properly analyzed my unconscious thinking I can begin to exert choice and control over my thought. These are some of the analytical tools that can eventually lead to changing the brain.

The Content of Thought
I feel like I have done a decent job claiming that thought often happens on an unconscious level. But now I want to ask the question, what are the contents, the subjects, the themes that my mind (your mind) typically revolves around? What kinds of things do you pay attention to automatically? Is it emotions? Is it something else?

For me, the most important thing to note is that my thoughts most frequently drift around other people's minds, emotions, and thoughts. If my mind isn't occupied with itself, it is most often occupied by thinking about other people's thoughts. If there is another mind near me I find it almost impossible to not to speculate about what that mind is thinking. What it is like.

An example that has happened to me hundreds of time: Say I'm having a conversation with someone in a part of a store, then unexpectedly someone walks around the corner and can now hear my conversation. In almost every instance I find that the way I speak changes because that new person has entered the space. My mind is immediately concerned with whether they can hear what I am saying, and what they might think about it. My mind is so compelled to think about other minds that I find my speaking changes simply with the presence of a new mind.

I find this feeling to be more pronounced if it is a girl I think is cute or something like that. But naturally, I would be more interested in the mind of a cute girl than of an old guy. When an old guy is around, however, it still modifies my conversation, I can think of instances. But I feel even more pulled out of my own mind when a cute girl walks by. Especially if I am having a philosophical or abstract conversation that might seem strange silly to someone else.

The funny thing about this is that I use phrases like 'pulled out of my own mind', and stuff like that. I literally feel like my mind moves when other people enter the space. My mind really feels like it is being pulled out of its isolation and into a new space: i.e. I experience this as a feeling of moving beyond my own mind and to another person's mind. I've always found that this happens to me, and I've often found it odd or hard to explain. But in the next section I think I'm going to explain it, or I can stab at an answer.

But in this section the main thing that I want to say is that the contents of my thought typically revolve around the thoughts and emotions of other people. My mind naturally thinks about other minds, and spends a fair amount of time doing it. It just seems to happen that way, and I think it is good. Every mind has its idiosyncrasies, so figure out what yours are I guess.

The Effects of Thought
Now I want to talk about the way that thought effects the way I feel and think about myself, others, and the world. So I have already established that my thought basically just happens to me, I simply experience it, and that it typically revolves around other people's thoughts and emotions. Experiencing thought like this has typically effected me the most when I am around new people or strangers. Mainly because these unfamiliar people give my mind a chance to run wild.
But I want to stress that the most important thing about thought is whether it has a positive or negative effect on you.

When I'm standing in line somewhere, for example, and I hear someone giggle behind me, I would often assume they were laughing at me for some reason. Does my hair look silly? Is my fly down? Self-consciousness would overcome me at the littlest sign of someone making fun of me. In reality, though, those people probably were thinking about something totally different. I just tend to think that people are thinking about me. Which often is not the case.

But more importantly is that I would feel uncomfortable around new people, just because I didn't have very much evidence for their thoughts, and my mind would naturally be self-conscious and think they were making fun of me. But I think I have gotten a bit better at not thinking that way. Because sometimes you have to do a little work to modify the way you think.

This is the most important thing about the effects of thought: it matters most whether your thoughts make you feel good or make you feel bad. It doesn't even matter as much if your thoughts are right or wrong. But if it makes you feel bad then you should think about trying to exert a little change over your thoughts. Use your imagination to manipulate the way you see things in certain moments. Those people laughing, for example, imagine that they are just talking about a friend and telling a joke, because in reality it probably has nothing to do with you. Or when someone cuts you off in traffic, imagine that they are having a heart attack, or a really bad week so you can forgive them. Maybe they are just dumb and spaced out and are a bad driver, but either way I don't know that, so what matters most is how I imagine other people's thoughts to be, and how that makes me feel. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt simply because it makes me feel better.

So in this section I have argued three interrelated things about that: that thought is often something that is not controlled but rather experienced (it just happens), that the content of my thought is usually other people's minds, and that thinking of the way other people think has an effect on the way I feel and think.

The Tendency to Intuitively Simulate Other Minds, Or, On Being Naturally Empathic
Now I want to talk more directly about my natural concern with other minds. In particular, I want to talk about how I think that my thoughts on other minds usually resemble a simulation of sorts. I think most of my thoughts are a lot like empathy. I usually imagine what someone is thinking or feeling and I think I feel or think it for myself. This is what I mean with the title of this subsection: that my mind tends to intuitively simulate other minds, I naturally empathize with other people.

Like I said above, when I'm having a conversation and then someone new walks into the room my mind totally gets pulled out of my present situation (which only involves two minds), and I can't help but think about that new mind. My mind is naturally, intuitively, pulled into that space of thinking about other minds. I think the word simulation helps me think about what it is like to think about another mind, and especially in these instances. By simulation I mean that whenever I think a certain person thinks something, it is me that is actually creating and projecting those thoughts onto them. I have no direct evidence of thought, ever. I can only know my own thoughts for sure. Knowledge of someone elses thoughts is always indirect, and I, therefore, am the one responsible for creating the thoughts that I attribute to other people. I have to simulate their thoughts and project them. It is me, my mind, that unconsciously (or consciously) runs these simulations that let me ascribe mental states to others.

Anyways, specifying that this is a process of simulation, in which I am responsible for bringing other people's thoughts to life, leads me to the necessity of self-centeredness/egocentrism (without the negative connotations). I think that by recognizing the egocentric nature of our thoughts we can actually begin to act more compassionately/understandingly to other perspectives.

Being Okay With The Egocentric Nature of Social Thinking
So, as I said above, when we think about another person's thoughts we can't access them directly. Therefore, it is our thoughts that help us understand other people's thoughts, or let us guess about other people's thoughts. We are always using our own thoughts to project thoughts onto other people (by first simulating their thoughts then projecting). So I see extreme subjectivity as a matter of fact, and something that naturally makes us have to think subjectively. We have to think as if though we are only dealing with our own thoughts. Cause it seems like that is what we are dealing with. Thought has to be egocentric by its very nature.

But that doesn't mean we will act selfishly, or without consideration of other people's feelings. In fact, I think recognizing the egocentric nature of social thought can make us more compassionate and empathic towards others. The key thing is that by recognizing that you only have access to your own thoughts, you can start consciously working within that world of your own subjectivity. You can think about the way you think and start to craft the way you think. You can start manipulating and experimenting with your understandings of other people. Although the mind automatically produces these simulations of other people's minds, you can also exhibit a little bit of control over them. So next time you think, 'oh those people are laughing they must be laughing at me', or 'oh that guy cut me off he must be stupid', try to think again and consider some alternative possibilities. Get creative with your own social imagination. Try to think, 'oh those people could be laughing about a mutual friend who did something wacky', ' or 'maybe they are having a rough day.' Because your understanding of these other people's minds are happening within your own mind you can exert some creativity on how you think about people.

Get creative with your own thought. Everyday thought can be creative. You have to experience the world egocentrically, you can only see from your perspective. But once you are okay with the egocentric nature of thought you can craft a conscientious egocentric perspective. Just because your thought is egocentric doesn't mean it isn't sensitive or empathic, it just means you work from your own views. Most importantly, hopefully this conscientious egocentrism can allow you to exercise a little control over how you think about other people. Because other people are (in many ways) just in your head, you can get creative with how you think about them.

On 6/22 I published an essay called 'The Inhibition of the Self as the Enrichment of the Self'. I expressed very related ideas in that post. I was explaining how it is that you can only see from your perspective, you have no choice but to simulate other people's thoughts for yourself. But if we want to be aware, conscientious, we can inhibit our own perspective and try to see as other people do. The more we inhibit our own views the more we may find ourselves understanding why people did what they did. We might find it easier to forgive people if we are a little bit more creative or imaginative with our explanations of people's actions. In other words, this conscientious egocentrism requires and inhibition of the self. You can't let your own perspective run away with you. In order to best utilize the necessary egocentrism of thought we have to inhibit ourselves some.

It is really easy to not choose how you think, but I'm saying it is possible, in some ways, to choose what you think about and how you think about it. And I really want to stress the importance of creativity in this. You can be creative everyday with your thoughts and with your actions. Life can become an art form, decision can become an art form, compassion can become an art form. Get creative with your imagination, with your thoughts, and with your life.

Forgiving Everyone for Everything: Creative Empathy and Finding Peace With Pain
Now I just want to advocate one stance I have held in jest/seriousness for quite a while now. That stance is communicated in the phrase (conceptually) forgive everyone for everything. As I said above, other people's thoughts exist primarily as simulations within my mind. How I am effected by those thoughts, therefore, is the most important thing.

So how do I deal with all the bad people in the world? All the people who seem rude or mean or evil? I have to simulate those people's minds? Do I chock their lameness up to choice? Ignorance? Stupidity? Laziness? Irrationality? There are so many distasteful people in the world, and it frustrates me to think about them, so what to do? Well, because thinking about these people in this way only hurts me, I need to do something about it. I need to find a way to think about these people that doesn't hurt me.

So how to do it? Well, my answer is that we need to find ways to imagine that these people can be forgiven for acting the way they do. We need to be creative and imagine that their are circumstances that somehow make that person's actions okay. When we think of drug dealers, murderers, etc., the worst people, we have to have an imagination that is powerful enough to say: 'don't you think those people probably came from incredible poverty in which their options were very limited? maybe they had no other way out, no choice.' This is hard to do. Hard to think about it.

But it feels so bad to blame these people for their crimes and to explain it with words like laziness, stupidity, ignorance, mental disease, etc.. It feels better for me to try and find a way to forgive these people. Unfortunately, it means giving a lot of credence to determinism. I, however, do believe that social and historical determinism are very real and powerful things in the world. History and society do not control us absolutely, but they undoubtedly set the limits on possible thought and action. Society only gives me certain ways of living, certain words to help me think, certain jobs and school to help me work and live. Society sets the boundaries of my life. I, therefore, am interested in transgressing those boundaries of thought. Those conceptual and intellectual boundaries.

In particular, I think that we have an overreliance on the notion of free will, control, and responsibility. We don't take social and historical determinism into account. I find it hard to believe when people tell me that people living in extreme conditions have the choice to do whatever they want. When people haven't even been exposed to information about education, or about work, how can you escape poverty and ignorance. If your experience has denied you that knowledge, is it still your fault that you live that way? Do the people of North Korea or Iran have a choice about living the way that they do? Seems like the North Korean people are pretty fucking determined in the way they think. Is it possible for them not to hate the Americans?

What I'm saying is that there must be reasons that these people do these terrible things. That we cannot simply explain it away through laziness, ignorance, and irrationality. That people are being compelled to behave in these ways based on deterministic factors beyond their awareness. That, for my sake, I try to find ways to conceptually forgive these people. Sure they have to be punished, but I want to imagine ways in which these people are not just evil or stupid, but have legitimate views and did legitimate things based on extreme circumstances. We too readily explain crime with the ideas or irrationality and stupidity, I want to find ways to forgive these people, imagine their actions and thoughts legitimate.

I think that the 'American Dream' as a vague ideas has a lot to do with this. I associate America with 'choice', 'freedom', 'liberty', 'responsibility', 'ownership'. All those ideas contribute to this condemnation that we too readily throw at criminals. I have had a problem with the American Dream for a while, but I want to make it official: I am declaring (intellectual) war against the American Dream.


Forgive everyone for everything as best you can, it will make you feel better about the world to imagine that these people are being legitimate. It will take some imagination, some creativity, but I think it worthwhile.

Lastly, I want to say that I like this idea of forgiving everyone for everything because I want to forgive myself. I know I have done things that were bad, that hurt other people, that I felt bad about at the time. But I want to find ways to forgive myself. Things are hard. It isn't just like I was being stupid, or being crazy, or being irrational. Life is difficult and complex, and lots of things compelled me to behave the way I did. Not that it was okay in my mind, and not that I want to act that way, but it is true that my behavior was in some sense legitimate. There were reasons that I did those things that I now regret. It wasn't for nothing. It was for complex things that I couldn't appreciate at the time. I did the best I could.

Everyone is just doing the best they can. Try to know that, imagine it, and feel it. Try to forgive everyone for everything.

Thoughts, Emotions, and Control: This Doesn't Work How I Was Told!
Now I just want to summarize quickly: I've claimed that my thoughts are very immediate, and they are often about other people's minds. Further, that these thoughts about other people are really simulations in which I imagine people's thoughts and then project those thoughts on to them. The point being that it is I that am really responsible for what I think of as 'other people's thoughts.' Since I am the one creating other people's thoughts, I believe that I can exert creative influence on myself, in which I explore different ways of explaining people's behavior. I deliberately craft the way that I think by regarding my first thoughts and reactions as mere possibilities among many. By recognizing this essentially egocentric nature of thought I can begin to exert creative influence on my own thoughts. And lastly, that I find it useful/satisfying to try and 'forgive everyone for everything'.

Now that I have made these claims about the nature of thinking about other people, and have established that I want to begin to control my thoughts, I want to explain more precisely how mental control may work.

First, I just want to say that when I was growing up self-control never worked in the way I felt like it should. The way everyone talked about self-control it seemed like it was something I should just do automatically, like I was some deliberate rational being that could just make myself do things. I felt like people thought you could just make yourself do whatever you want. And in some ways, you can maybe, you can force yourself to do things. But at the same time I always felt so bound by my thoughts and emotions. I felt like they overwhelmed me and prevented me from having any coherent sense of how my mind worked or how I was to control these things. Sometimes you just cry and it is hard to stop. When I was young this was definitely a thing for me. And I never understood how I was supposed to control myself.

But I will say that controlling your thoughts and feelings is not as simple as it sometimes sounds. You can't just shift gears. You can't just flip a switch. The mind is not like a machine and it cannot be controlled like that. Even using mechanical metaphors to conceptualize thought doesn't feel so good. So I am going to throw out some different metaphors that sometimes help me conceptualize control.

Sometimes I think about the mind and emotions as a child of sorts. It is a part of you that can't be appealed to with reason. You have to coddle your mind, coax it, plead with it, question it, and above all be patient with it. Waiting is without a doubt one of the most important things, and sometimes I forget that. But waiting and watching yourself can be so helpful.

I also sometimes think about the mind in terms of clay and pottery. The mind is something that we have to get very familiar with before we can start exercising lots of control over it. Above I compared it to getting to know the consistency of a piece of clay before you turn it into pottery. So, don't treat your mind like a machine, like something objective or rational that can be manipulated directly. Instead, treat it like something fragile, delicate, something that needs soothing and caring. Cause you just need to be sensitive and patient towards yourself. And once you become okay with being certain ways, or understanding why you are certain ways, it might be easier to think in new ways.

I presented these alternative metaphors because I think that the way we think about our thinking is probably the most important thing in all of this. The terms that you use to think of yourself are so important, and can be so helpful, or equally harmful. If you think of your mind in terms of rationality, sanity, you can become trapped by those ideas, they can make you feel irrational or insane. But guess what, you don't have to be rational, and I don't think most people are (for the most part). We have to conceptualize emotions and thoughts and controlling them in different ways. In other words, we can only control our thoughts and emotions if we can begin to think of them in new and creative ways that help us forgive ourselves and others, for everything.

We need to relabel the world and ourselves so that we can see it in a new light. This leads me to my next section where I will elaborate on how control can be attained through relabeling, and how this relates to mindfulness and personal creativity.

Control, Relabeling, and Mindfulness: Controlling Thoughts and Emotions as Actively Creating and Transforming the Self
So, the questions for this section are: how exactly does relabeling familiar things (finding new terms for old things, like emotions), how does this bring about control? How does reconceptualizing things give you a different way of acting or choosing?

Well let me just say first and foremost that relabeling is so important because we already have so many labels for everything! Society has given us so many words and so many of them are loaded with so many connotations that I feel repelled by them. I don't want to use these words that society has given me because they are. Everybody is either this or that, some race and nationality or some gender, some sexual orientation or some social class. Too many labels! Too many connotations. They are too historically dense. If we can't find new terms to think in we won't be able to escape these conceptual limitations that come along with society and history.

So, ultimately, new words = new ways of thinking about things. And I think that the mind is especially important to adopt new terms for. Because the basic, normative, popular ways of speaking about the mind make almost no sense. I think people usually speak in terms of rationality, sanity, computing, metaphors and references to computers and machines. I don't feel rational, sane, or like a computer or a machine. I feel quite different from those things.

This is another possibility I like: no words for anything at all. How blankly could you experience the world? How much could you bypass words and experience life as raw vision, touch, smell, etc. Words cook life. They distort it. They make it look like different things. Life is raw, words cook life. How raw can we get it? How much can we bypass words? This will be explored more in the last section.

But I will still propose a set of terms that I think are better for conceptualizing the mind than the ones I just ran through. I explained most of them above. But I think the world should be thought of in terms of the following: simulation, experience, emotion, attention (mindfulness), creativity, imagination, and transformation. Rather than regard ourselves as logical machines, recognize we are emotional beings that understand others by empathizing, by simulating their thoughts and feelings, their experiences. Instead of thinking in terms of deliberately controlled and logical thought we should think in terms of attention, creativity, and imagination. We have to be creative in order to think differently and to control ourselves. Finally, rather than rational self-control we should think in terms of transformation and construction of the self. We can't control ourselves unless we are actively creating ourselves. Life is not static, it isn't like we just are some way, we can change, we can transform, and we can make it happen. Control is about actively transforming yourself. I think this is an agentic view, I think this is this is free will. But I think it is a free will that is achieved by recognizing that society has given you a limited set of concepts, and that adopting new concepts can give you a new perspective that can allow you to live everyday more creatively. New terms can give us the option of transforming ourselves.

Furthermore, I want to say that all this business of relabeling and attention connects very easily to Buddhist mindfulness. To be mindful is to adopt a semi-objective stance towards your thoughts and feelings, to regard them as only as a passing experience. Mindfulness is about paying attention. Relabeling, therefore, enables a sort of mindfulness. The goal is to pay attention to the world. But it is hard, that is why relabeling helps. It gives us new ways of paying attention to old things.

Now I want to elaborate on the transformative element of my version of free will. First I want to briefly discuss the neuroscience that confirms these ideas about control, relabeling, and transformation. Then I want to wrap up on mindfulness as the key factor in transforming ourselves, and thus controlling ourselves.

New Concepts as New Brains: Neuroplasticity and Control as Transformation
This is gonna be a brief section. All I want to say is that I have read two books that substantially confirm that the brain can be changed by deliberate thinking. And more importantly, that relabeling familiar things, finding novelty among monotony, is essential to personal change. You have to learn to pay attention to the world in new ways. This relationship between personal change, relabeling, and novelty can be explained by neuroplasticity. Generally, right here I just want to argue that personal change has correlates in the brain. You are not hardwired to be a certain way, you can change, and neuroscientists think so too.

When you adopt new words for things, relabel them, it often makes things appear differently to you. It makes them novel for you. This novelty makes you pay more attention to them. Interestingly, the brain undergoes certain chemical processes when we experience novel things that we pay close attention to. Two chemicals, brain derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf) and dopamine are released when we pay close attention. The release of these chemicals opens our brain up to plastic change. In short, we are more likely to make new neural connections (ie new thoughts) when we are paying attention, and these chemicals are in our brain. Paying attention actually forces the brain to modify itself by releasing these chemicals. Paying attention helps us change our brains. Remember, this is essentially mindfulness. So mindfulness helps us change our brains.

But how do we pay attention to things when life in America is so routine and monotonous? Well, one thing we can do is relabel things. Adopt new terms to think about old things. Either way, new words prompt novelty, and therefore prompts your brain for neuroplastic change. The conclusion is undeniable and very straight forward: relabeling familiar things enables a mindfulness that can cause physical changes in the brain. By relabeling we can pay attention to things in new ways and begin actively transforming ourselves, and our brains.

The Quest for Endless Novelty: Controlling the Self as Mindful and Perpetual Transformation
So mindfulness is the key thing in all of this. We can't transform ourselves, or our thoughts and emotions unless we are paying attention to our thoughts and emotions. You have to be there with them, you need to acknowledge them, pay attention to them!

But it is so hard to pay attention into our incredibly routinized world. Everything is so laid out for me! All these jobs and roads and ideas! Too much planning, too much repetition, too much monotony! How do I find novelty among this!?!

Well, it turns that everyday is dynamic, and every personality I come across is dynamic.

I believe that life is incredibly dynamic. I think everyday is different. I think my thoughts and emotions are different everyday. I think I am constantly transforming. But the calendar, the clocks, the words, the social categories, they make it easy to miss the dynamism of life. They make it easy to think that we live the same week every week. That we have Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat.

It makes it feel like we have January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat.

You get the point. Western, modern life, has a lot of structure that comes along with capitalism, cocks, calendars, and wide spread knowledge.

But I think if we can learn to see that those things are not really real real, that they are socially and historically constructed, the world could appear incredibly novel to us. Like seriously, wtf is up with trees? Why are they so incredible? What was it like for people who didn't know how trees grew? They just saw them and experienced them and maybe got food from them?

Why does this world look so familiar to me? Why couldn't it be new?

My cousin likes this Cormac McCarthy quotation that I think demonstrates the same idea. He wrote, "The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of it's strangeness it would appear to you for what it is." We experience the same thing most days and it seems familiar, seems monotonous. But it isn't. Anything can be thought, anything is possible. Maybe not anything. But it is a powerful quotation to me.

Well, like I said, I believe that it is new all the time. Everyday is dynamic. Every act and decision can be creative, is creative. But if we think about it as creative it becomes a lot more apparent. We can turn our lives into art. Compassion is an art. Life as art.

We need to try and recognize the world, and ourselves, for what they are: endlessly changing and transforming things that have no definite shape or being.

Once we can achieve this kind of mindfulness, this kind of perpetual novelty, I think that we can begin to really change ourselves, to really control ourselves. If we can learn to pay attention to the world in new ways we can transform ourselves. Every act can be transformative, creative, imaginative, wise.

I think this is what control really is: the active transformation of the self through mindfulness. Learn to see the world like a child, constantly wordless and aware, mindful. Look at the world as if though it were constantly shocking, surprising.

I want life to be endlessly novel, I want to be perpetually transformed by mindful observation of my life.

So, to conclude. let me summarize. This has been very personal, and everything in here is representative of my thoughts and experiences, and is no way prescriptive. I am not trying to tell anybody else how to think. When I say 'you' or 'us' or whatever, I am just speaking for myself in vague and general terms. I claimed that I think it's best to think not in terms of the quantity of thought, but in terms of the quality of thought. I then argued that the quality of my thought can be described in three ways: 1. It is immediate and uncontrollable, it is often something that I simply experience, not something I have to 'do.' 2. That my thoughts often drift towards other people's minds, and I can't help but think about other people's thoughts. 3. And that the most important thing is how my thoughts about other people effect me. I then discussed simulation, and claimed that it was my mind that had to bring other people's thoughts to life. Then I argued that because I was responsible for simulating other people's thoughts, thought has to be egocentric. It must revolve around our perspective and experiences. I also claimed, however, that it is possible to craft a conscientious egocentrism, in which we take other people's views into account and act compassionately. I then explored the closely related idea of 'forgiving everyone for everything', by which I mean finding ways to think creatively about explaining painful behavior. In particular, I wanted to undercut the idea of control and reason in blaming criminals. I then discussed how I have reconceptualized control in light of these other ideas. I concluded that control does not work the way I have been led to believe: it is not a simple process of deliberate or rational thought, and that I am often more compelled than to do something rather than choosing something. I then claimed that control should be thought of, rather, as something is achieved through active transformation of the self. I offered some alternative metaphors that stressed the importance of being patient and working with yourself, and above all paying attention to yourself. I then went on to explain how transformation of the self could be achieved by relabeling familiar things with new terms. This would enable us to think in new ways, and would enable a sort of mindfulness that would let us examine ourselves. I then discussed the neuroscience that confirms that mindfulness can cause neuroplastic change, in essence showing that paying attention and relabeling can lead to physical changes in the brain, and thus the self. Lastly, I explained that I want to experience my life as endless novelty and perpetual transformation. I want to experience everyday as dynamic, new, and raw.

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