Thursday, June 30, 2011

Empty Hearts

I can and will stand forever.
To let it rest
To let it burn
I will stand forever

I won't live forever
To let this burn
To let it thrive
I will pretend forever

To maintain integrity
To feign authenticity
I will imagine forever

For explosive skulls
And tearful eyes
I will shout whenever

Because I am fictional
In the realest way
Always desperately clawing
For all that fades away

Is it you?
Or was it me?
Will I love forever?
Or Just today?

Is it rage
That carries me away?
Or is it fear
That keeps me here?

It isn't you
And is probably me
But please oh please
Do not doubt me

I'm that forceful type
Of lying bitch
Always rude
Typically rich

Excrementally curious
Monumentally serious
You are the one
That I choose to pray

Because your heart
Makes me vomit
When my own
Only deserves to die

You are the force
Buried in these words
Behind these hideous lies

And we were the ones
That deserved to die

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Minds And Mediums

What is it about alliteration?

I don't know either. But it sure is pleasant.

The writing I'm doing right now really has me stumped. The title of the essay of 'Relationships and Mediums: Habits, Historical Knowledge, And Human Self-Creation'. I am currently in the middle section where I am trying to write about the issue of mediums.

Mediums is a strange issue. I feel like I'm working primarily with Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows. But I really don't know what to do. I'm reaching all these plateaus, all these platitudes. I'm not saying much except that cities, economic systems, and language itself are mediums.

But the issue I am working towards is the issue of minds and of relationships. Relationships are always filtered through minds. It couldn't be any other way. So the question is, What is the mind?

And what the hell is a mind? How do we think of such a thing? What is a mind? How do I answer that question.

And I'm tempted to reduce it to the issue of mediums.

I'll take McLuhan's famous phrase, 'the medium is the message', and I'll modify it.

I'll say 'the mind is the medium', or 'the medium is the mind'.

I've just thought of this tonight and I don't know which one is better.

But there is something about minds and mediums.

Something about how we think, how we choose, how we live, and the mediums we use.

Because frankly it seems that our mediums set our choices. The mediums set out thoughts. The mind is the medium. The medium is the mind.

It reminds me of what Collingwood says. There is no such thing as a mind at rest. Mind is what mind does.

So the question becomes, 'well, what does mind do? and how does it do it?'

It does it through mediums. And thus it would seem that the mind is the medium, or vice versa.

I'm quite lost with my writing on this issue.

And I think it has to do with the confusion of parsing this distinction between medium and mind. I think it has to do with what it is that I am and what it is that has created me.

I'm really struggling with these issues. I think I don't have enough evidence for the issue of mediums. I simply haven't read enough. The same is true for the issue of minds.

But I'll try to write this essay. Unfortunately, I think it means that I won't be able to give the question of mediums a close enough look. I'm going to be short changing it. But that is okay.

Or I guess I should say that I won't be looking at it from the right angle.

Because I can certainly argue that mind is nothing but its mediums, and I can take a look at the medium. But the problem is larger than that.

The real problem is this: What is the inclination of the mediums through which our minds work?

Because a medium is never a passive recipient, never a mere tool. It is always a collaborator in our actions, it always contains an implicit message, an inclination. The medium itself encourages certain types of behavior.

And that is the issue that I am baffled by. I don't know how to explain what the inclinations of our mediums are. And thus I don't know what the inclinations of our minds are.

Mediums and minds.

Are they inseparable or am I crazy?

I feel crazy.

But I don't think I'm crazy.

I think this issue of mediums and minds is a crucial one.

Shall I flip out now?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Sometimes you win trivia night. Sometimes I feel like I don't contribute that much to the trivia team. I feel like my other teammates know a lot more stuff than I do. But that is okay.

Because tonight we won trivia. A ton of fun. We all get pretty pumped when we win trivia. We hear them announce the second place team and suddenly we know that we are the first place team. We all go ' WHOOOO YEAHH BABY'. Hands fly and make all kinds of contact with one another.

And them suddenly I'm home again at the end of the night. Desirous of a shower. Curious about the future. Eager for water.

This week has felt so much longer than it has actually been.

It is only Tuesday.

I feel like it should be Thursday or something.

It hasn't been that difficult. It has just felt long.

I wonder about myself these days.

I'm lacking definition.

And I laugh at that idea of having definition. Knowing who I am or what I'm doing.

I have read 35 pages of Leviathan. Finding it quite strange so far. Lots of discussion of 'Man'. The issue of philosophical anthropology is a very interesting one. A crucial one.

But Hobbes was able to speak of 'Man' in that sense. Was able to talk about the universalities of 'Man'. I'm happy to be reading it.

Part of me likes it because it is written in old English. Words like 'warre' instead of 'war'. Lots of different spellings, different things going on.

Also, I haven't done any writing in a little while. Any serious writing, I mean.

I have this essay on relationships and mediums sitting in a word document. But I haven't put much work into it right now.

I had some kind of profound moment the other night where I felt like I had breakthroughs.

Something about human self-creation. Something about history and experience and synthetic experience and human self-creation.

Something something something.

My thoughts continue to be scattered. And I suspect that is okay..

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beast Mode

Don't you just want to flip out?

Can't you feel the excitement?

Sometimes I talk about beast mode.

Like, 'OH! I'm about to go beast mode on this'.

I say it at my work sometimes.

Barista work is fast paced.

I have five drinks to make.

And I'm all like, 'Oh, hell no, I'ma go beast mode now'.

Animalism is such an interesting issue.

To be human.

To be animal.

We are in the strange predicament of knowing that we are both of these things.

But honestly I don't think this matters to us. Being human and being animal are oddly compatible. Perhaps it is a contradiction that we can't rectify so we just unreflectively live with it.

But when I talk about beast mode I know it conveys something different about behavior. It conveys something about the quality of my behavior that is different from my normal behavior. When I go into 'beast mode' at work I become completely unreflective. I am governed entirely by physical movement and by habit. I just go. Go go go go. This is beast mode. All you do in beast mode is move.

So interesting how we associate the human world with something other than habit, something other than raw action.

The human world is a linguistic world. Today, however, someone told me they thought that the human world was more than a linguistic world.

I'd like to be able to answer the question, What is the animal world? What is the non-human world? What is that world beyond society? What is 'the state of nature'?

I ought to read Leviathan. I really really ought to.

And I will.

I'm feeling routy enough.

I'm feeling young enough.

I'm feeling alive enough.

You call it Malibu?

I call it Malibooyah.


Man, Bill Callahan is an intense musician sometimes. Well. All the time. But sometimes his music really hits me in ways that are strange. I used to listen to him when he recorded as 'Smog'. Just a moment ago the song 'To Be Of Use' came on and I was like WHOA.

It is an unbelievably slow song. So bare. So minimal. But the lyrics shock me in some ways.

Oh and then the slide guitars just came on. And I'm all like uhhhhhh. Whoooooooaaa.

It also turns out it has a music video, and it looks super weird. I'm watching it right now. You can watch it here:

And here are the lyrics:

"Most of my fantasies are of
Making someone else come
Most of my fantasies are of
To be of use
To be of some hard
Undeniable use

Like a spindle
Like a candle
Like a horseshow
Like a corkscrew

To be of use
To be of use

Most of my fantasies are of
Making someone else come
On a horse
Over palms laid
On the threshold
On the coming day

Coming day
Coming day come."

I wonder what it is about them. Why I find them so jarring or emotional. I don't know. They are so desperately social and romantic. I like it.

It reminds me of something I read recently. I finished Vonnegut's Sirens Of Titan. I liked it a good bit. At one point in the book a character says that the worst thing to ever happen would be for someone to never be used by anyone else. That there is something good about people using one another.

And frankly I also feel this in a way. I want people to use me. Not for fickle ends. Not so people can get money or things like that. But I want people to use me for my relationships. Or use me for my conversation. Use me for something that is good. Because I think there is something good to be said for people using one another for their company, for their feelings, for their relationships. I dunno what I'm saying. There is an interesting sentiment that Vonnegut is trying to communicate in Sirens, and I think that Callahan is also communicating it in 'To Be Of Use'. I like that song. And I liked that book.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Reality

"Where has gone, my reality? Oh it's not there."

I think sometimes about the way I express myself and the way other people might perceive it. For the most part I think my attempts at expressing myself are pretty private. Beyond this blog, I don't make much of an effort to show people the way I express myself.

I write bad poetry. I write long abstract essays that express my emotions in very technical ways.

But in the mean time people are having their own birthdays, their own issues, their own realities.

I don't know what my reality is. I am very emotional. I am trying to express myself in a variety of ways. Primarily through words. Poetry, short stories (bad ones, and not many of them), and philosophy. My world is isolated from your world.

Part of me really wants to go and buy a canvas and a bunch of paints. I should try to express myself in forms other than words. Because I am so logocentric.

My new essay has me excited, though. I think words are great.

I also think I have some direction with my reading. I think I need to read a very famous book, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. I want to do that mainly so that I can be prepared to read Collingwood's The New Leviathan.

My new essay is prompting a lot of questions about the role of the state, the ability of a sovereign power to organize and structure people's lives from the top down.

Those books will likely give me some insight into that question.

I want so badly to express.

And perhaps more importantly, I want for someone to understand my expression and to throw it back in my face.

My expression is so governed by my expression. And I want someone to take my expressiveness seriously, because I want someone to take my reality early.

And I realize that everyone has their own reality. And that you might be too busy to care for my expressiveness. But I am waiting for it, I guess.

I'm still feeling pretty loving, though. To all of you.

I want to be free to go places and to feel things.

And I want that for all of you.

That is the good advice I received tonight.

And I hope I can live it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Rawest Face

I wanted it crafted
I want you to fake it
I want you to stop

Don't pose or maneuver
Just stand there until
I say I want you to move

This isn't real for anyone
It hurts for me
It hurts for everyone

Is it what you were expecting?
An ineffable experience?
A trite word?

One after another they come.
Finding them in unique combinations
Is harder than I might think

Finding them at all is easiest
Stop fucking around

Latest Essay

This latest writing I am doing is getting me into some weird stuff. The title of the essay is 'Relationships And Mediums: Habits, Historical Knowledge, and Self-Creation'. I originally just wanted to conduct an analysis of relationships in the broadest sense. It then turned into this reconnection with my writing on creating a historically informed theory of mind. And from there it has turned into the issue of understanding minds by understanding the mediums that minds work through. And that has then turned into an analysis issue of cities, economic systems, politics, and other issues, which I believe are the most important mediums that minds work through. And that in turn brings me to the issue of macro social and political change, which would have to come through politics/policy. So this essay is jerking me all over the place. I'm struggling to keep my ideas clear. Because I am drifting quite far away from my original plans.

Thus, what seems to be emerging from this writing is the idea that there could be a way to create a historically informed theory of mind that would serve as a valuable guide to intelligent human-self creation through political choice and macro socioeconomic change. I see it in many ways as a pedagogical idea. A seed for a form of education yet to be specified. In essence, the finished essay, the core of the idea, would be a way to enhance political judgement.

I have not left the Clausewitzian project behind. I am still so inclined to think in terms of policy/politics. I am still so inclined to think of ways that political leaders could be better educated.

I once told a friend that I was inclined to direct my intellectual work towards higher political leaders, and hope that I could work on that level.

He was, understandably, disturbed by that idea. It is terrible to think that we are dealing with this world in which there is so much top down control.

But the analysis I am currently conducting is revolving around things like urban design, economic systems, very macro things. And I am afraid that it seems like the way that politics and economics structures peoples lives is more important than anything else.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Angry Barista

For my dad:

He woke up in the morning and decided that he would continue living his life before he realized he didn't have a choice.

Movement overcame him and he was effortlessly pressing buttons like he never had to learn to. He simultaneously loved and loathed how little action had to do with thought. He waited for those moments where he could lose himself in the movement of his limbs. At the end of it all he would have to ask everyone where he was and how he came to be there in that way.

What could be better than to feel identity collapse under the weight of the body? The warmth of the shower felt better than that. His ego appreciated the warmth and seemed to coax his identity to life. Just like everyone else he had those fun moments of rousing under that water that possessed thousands of years of thought. He once scoffed at the idea of becoming that water, the idea of imagining himself flushing through those pipes and out into his own hands. But now here he was in the shower becoming the water imbued with the thought of history. He would never know the minds that died swirling numbers to wet his body. But he thanked them every morning for giving him the gift of morning thought.

Heat meets cold and his body enters that familiar world of dryness. Clothes clothes all the fucking clothes put them on and go. Out the door with scarves loaded not only with thought but with thoughtfulness. These were the quiet and rageless moments where he obliviously enjoyed the wanderings of his mind. He could entertain anything in that warm water, create everything in that cold air.

Blankly up the hill with the pumping and stretching of calf muscles. He liked the pain because it wasn’t cold. He knew that faces were imminent. That he would soon look at other eyes and feel the mirror extend forever. Which ones would it be today? Who would look at him and ask him to become something? It was him, of course. That man whose name he would never know. That man that he trusted with his life every morning. That man that he hoped had a twenty year safe driving record like those mythical figures he saw on signs.

Get on the bus swipe the card hear the beep find a seat move on with your life. Here we go. Around those curves around those curves up those streets into that familiar space that he knew had to have changed somehow. It was like watching cookies bake, waiting for them to lose their factory given cube shape, watching them become something more natural. He hoped these walls would crumble so that he could experience some roundness in his life. But that would come from other times and other places.

His mind was the only round thing that he really needed to be round. He needed to be a ball on a floor that wasn’t quite a ball and that wasn’t quite a floor.

Window seats were ideal because they reminded him of what it was like to know space in different ways. He would walk these streets and know that they were different on foot, that they weren’t the same place from behind that glass. He would watch the numbers on the houses go by and watch them count. Up up up up up up up up the numbers went, counting up to an exciting number that would some day be a year. Suddenly he realized that the numbers were getting beyond him. They were becoming things that he wasn’t able to keep track of anymore. He realized he was the numbers and that everything would soon be beyond him. He would soon become something that was just another ride down a hill. He would have to trust someone else to guide him towards his end. He had to let his time go because that is what this world wanted. It wanted him to live and then to die.

Don’t make a fuss, don’t make a scene, just get on the bus and forget that you are watching yourself die.

Get the money.

More hills and more turns and more words and he is finally in position to get the money. More buttons more words and the money is his, accumulating slowly, to be dispensed at a later date. To be given to him in numbers on screens and on paper. To be pulled from claws and teeth and to become alcohol and other various things. Are the things around me made of money?

Entering that carefully defined space he prepares to perform his loosely defined tasks. He was instantly pleased with the way judgement was a part of his work. But carefully defined judgement. Judgement without all the messy side effects. Judgement light.

And soon the explicit feeling of judgement would collapse under the weight of experience and repetition. He would no longer make ‘decisions’, he would simply act. He would simply move. He wondered what secret contents lie within that movement. What secrets his mind was keeping from itself. How could all of this thought disappear? How could its content persist in the form of action?

There was, however, one thing that would never collapse into routine. And that was the indignation. He couldn’t stand the way that others were capable of commanding him. And even more so he couldn’t stand the whimsy of it all. The flailing whimsy of his own feelings and the way that others seemed to regard him. Where were his egg shells? Why were you always stepping on them? Why couldn’t he just clean them up? I want you all to walk safely.

But I don’t really. Because I’m not safe. Not in any kind of dangerous way. But in the way that I can’t trust myself. I want to be stable and I want to be that rock. I want these careless people to mean nothing to me. But the truth is that they mean a lot to me. I tell them how I’m doing and they tell me how I’m doing and none of it means anything. Except to me. It means a lot to me.

It means a lot to me that I get that money. And you people get me that money. Thanks. Thanks for the money.

I’m not that angry. I’m just angry.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Theory-Theory, Cognitive Maps, Absolute Mind, Historical Knowledge, and Social Self-Creation

I am talking about the same problem with many different labels.

My latest writing has made me return to theory of mind a little bit. I've been trying to think again about 'theory-theory', in which philosophers believe that people understand one another by using unconscious/tacit mental theories to make inferences about other people's mental states. Or to put it another way, that we understand other people by using a mental process that (when made explicit) resembles the deductive logic characteristic of scientific method.

I don't know how much I understand theory-theory. In the past, I think I have made careless references to it without really understanding it. But I'm trying to think about it again.

I think that there are a lot of other ideas that remind me of theory-theory. One is the idea that of 'mental mapping', which I have learned about from Chris Frith, Guy Claxton, and Nicholas Humphrey. They maintain that the brain does not function as a passive perceiver of reality, but that the brain actively constructs our perception. Perception does not work from the outside in (with the brain objectively and passively observing reality), but from the inside out (with the brain actively constructing our perception in order to try and predict reality). Humphrey claims that this was an understandable step in our evolution, as we began to process greater amounts of sensory input the brain needed to come up with new ways of understanding reality. At some point, the amount of sensory information becomes to great to handle at once. So, Humphrey claims, the brain began to build models of reality, augmenting it with sensory data as necessary. This means that what we perceive is not necessarily reality, but our brains model of reality.

While other animals, like monkeys, also possess this type of cognitive mapping, I think that this has unique implications for humans. Namely, because of our unique capacity for complex language. This is when the work of people like John Searle, Roger Smith, and Ian Hacking become useful. All of them claim that knowledge of humans is reflexive, and therefore language has the unique power to change what people are simply by telling them what they are.

Searle argues that all of human institutional reality, which is defined by the existence of deontic power, is maintained by language's ability to create something simply by declaring it to be. He calls this a 'status function declaration'. It is a statement (a declaration) that creates something that functions only because its status has been collectively accepted (a status function). A good example is a cocktail party: it only happened because someone said it would happen. But that status function rests on other ones, like the notion of property. Someone can only have a party because they 'know' that they 'own' a certain space defined as an apartment or house. But that notion of property rests on another layer of status functions, namely, the existence of money and economic institutions. Money doesn't function for any other reason than that we collectively regard it as working. But even further, that money can't exist without political and military institutions, which are also the result of status functions. Nations only exist because of language, and so much of military organization (if not all) occurs along national lines nowadays. As you can see, our social existence is maintained by many layers of status functions that buttress one another.

Now, what does this mean for the issue of mental modeling? Well, what it means is that our mental models, unlike that of say monkeys, is open to a wider range of possibilities. On pure speculation, i will say that apes and other animals are probably dealing with smaller amounts of data, a smaller world of possibilities, and their mental maps would therefore be more static, more consistent, more stable.

Humans, however, have a more (linguistically) diverse environment, and their mental maps would therefore be more flexible, more plastic. I sometimes wonder whether it has something to do with neuroplasticity. As I understand, humans brains are far more plastic than most animals, and change throughout our lives. Could this somehow be connected to the fact that language makes our mental models less stable and more variable? Just a side thought though. Back to the main issue.

So if language is unique in giving humans a more complex and constructed social reality, and this means that humans mental maps are more diverse, then how can we gain knowledge of what it means to be human. Smith claims that evolutionary and physical science will never provide an adequate understand of what i means to be human. That knowledge of being human is unique in that it is reflexive, to tell someone what they are is to change what they are. As a result, scientific knowledge will never pin down a precise and unchanging 'human nature', because our very nature will be changing with the conversation. I remember a quote, 'humans are by nature indeterminate'. Something like that. It is in our nature to be diverse creatures whose practices and thoughts change with our language.

Smith, therefore, claims that the conversation about being human must turn to historical knowledge. People are, he argues, what they say they are. Historical knowledge of what people say it means to be human is therefore knowledge of being human. This is what Hacking refers to as historical ontology. Hacking follows Foucault in his claim that we can only understand the nature of our being if we can understand the historical conditions that have created our being.

So, if human nature is in constant flux, and historical study, the study of texts, can tell us what it means to be human, what does this mean for the human nature of the future? Well, Smith puts it strangely: "the answer to the question, 'What is human?', lies in the history of the forthcoming answers" (Being Human, 15). What Smith ultimately advocates is the prospect of human self creation, 'the creation of human nature'. This is indeed an idea with considerable historical precedents. Vico, Collingwood, Croce, Foucault, Searle, and others have all discussed the way that humans create themselves through language and history. And with my reading on neuroplasticity, I feel more convinced that humans are capable of creating themselves through language and culture.

So there are two more questions I want to ask myself. If the human mind and human nature are plastic things that are created through language and historical processes, and the task thus becomes the purposeful creation of that nature, how is one to go about it? Well, I have two ideas. The first involves a diagnostic step. The second involves a thought I have about the purpose of political and social policy.

Before we can take steps to purposefully create our society, we need to know to some extent what it is that our society is. We need to assume a modern attitude (in the Foucaultian sense), and we need to examine history to understand what it is that is going on in our society. What are the problems we see in our society? What are the status functions that are governing people's experiences and causing these problems? What are the institutions maintaining the social/linguistic world that is making these things possible? Or, to put it in Foucaultian terms, what is the character of the episteme that is maintaining the current discursive regime? Or, to put it in Collingwoodian terms, what is the character of the current 'absolute mind' of society? Perhaps this could even be called a question if 'ideology' (I think for Zizek it could be). It is so interesting how society is so governed by 'thoughts' or 'ideas' in this very large sense (which I hear Hegel talks about). I wonder if Searle has any affinity for German Idealism (or Collingwood's idealism). But in any case, because society is constructed by language, status functions, ideology, ideas, so on, we need to take time to understand the historical basis for the current state of society. This means studying the history of language, ideas, etc.. Only if we can understand the historical basis for our social experience will we be able to understand why peoples mental maps are the way they are, why their tacit theories exist in the form that they do.

The second part would be one that is more decisive, more progressive. It would be about making a major social change, and trying to enact this change at the level of individual mental maps. We need people to behave differently, we need people's mental maps of reality to change. So how to do this?

Well, to answer this question I would like to make reference to an article I read for a military sociology class. The author claimed that there are two layers of rules on every naval vessel (or military institution). There is the explicit layer of rules which are stated clearly and directly to people. But then there is a second layer of implicit rules that are not stated, but are somehow brought into existence by the explicit rules. On the highway, for example, the speed limit is 60 mph. But clearly everyone drives above the speed limit and not everyone is arrested for going 65 or 70 mph. Explicit rules cannot always be directly enforced, and they give way to this secondary, implicit, cultural rules. This is what Zizek says is the level of habit. He says that to know a society's habits is to know the meta-rules that dictate how explicit rules are applied. I would say that this level of habit can also be thought of as the level of mental mapping.

The task of policy, therefore, is not to create the best explicit rules, or to specify the rules of an ideal society and hope that people obey the laws. Rather, policy should be approached in a meta fashion: we should think about how the explicit rules are going to interact with the secondary world of meta rules, of culture and habits, of minds and their mental maps.

Historical knowledge should therefore help us develop policies that are aimed at reshaping a society's culture, and thereby its habits, its mental maps. This could potentially happen if we were to regard policy not as an end in itself, but as a means to reshaping the world of culture that it rests on. This is a crucial lesson of the reflexive nature of human knowledge: we cannot know ourselves without changing what it is that we are. And in the same way we cannot create policies without those policies changing what it is that we are. What we should really be considering is how those explicit policies are going to create a ripple in the social and cultural world. And thus try to create policies that are going to ripple in the ways that we want them to. We need to know that human nature is essentially about change, and try to create policies that are about actively creating society, and not about maintaining it. Hmm, perhaps the argument about the reflexivity of human nature implicitly endorses liberal/progressive politics. That is kind of what it sounds like.

The last thing I will say is more of a side note. I want to know what would be the most crucial status function, the most important layer of society to address and change. Zizek and Marxists and all that think it should be the economy. And part of me is really starting to understand that and agree with it. That type of thinking will require so much more research. But I wonder.

But no doubt historical knowledge has quite a lot to do with the possibility of human self creation, which I think must have something to do with policy change.

This writing will probably be going in my latest essay 'Relationships and Mediums: Habits, Historical Knowledge, And Self-Creation'. This writing was super on the fly. But I really enjoyed this last hour or so of writing. And I think I worked out some interesting stuff. Hmmmm. Retroactive freedom fits into all of this somehow.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Observing The Present With A Historical Eye

Sometimes I watch television shows and movies and I feel fascinated by them. Tonight I watched the first two episodes of 'Game Of Thrones' and I was pretty fascinated by the representations in that show. I was just like whoa, what a world in which something like this could possibly be produced. Same thing with music, art, and most other facets of contemporary culture. I feel almost no way to judge them in terms of quality. I know whether I like things or not. That isn't quite what I mean.

I am thinking about the way that we approach the past, the way we approach the study of history. We don't begin the study of the past by just judging it, we are concerned with much more than moral judgements of the past. What we seek with historical study is to understand why people did what they did. We view the past as something that had its own internal logic. We think 'there was something going on in that era that made people act that way'. In some ways the past is freer from moral judgement than the present.

So what if we are capable of viewing the present moment in similar ways. What if the present moment is something to be understood, and not something to be judged.

Clearly that is a socially and politically irresponsible approach. But I guess what concerns me is that we jump straight into judging the present moment without trying to understand the present moment. So I guess I'm just thinking that if we are to take the effort to understand the present we will be in much better shape to go about judging it and changing it.

This seems to be at the core of what Collingwood calls 'absolute ethics'. A stance in which we see all action as operating under the same 'absolute mind', the same presuppositions, the same episteme (perhaps).

In any case, I just wonder about the benefits of historical thinking, and I wonder about this idea of absolute ethics. And this capacity for understanding seems to be a major benefit to both historical thinking and absolute ethics (which are undoubtedly related).

Ooooh Writing

I'm 18 pages into a new essay and I'm happy with how it is going.

But god damn the internet makes me crazy. I'm so distractible. Even now I got the urge to go play an online game somewhere or do something else.

I'd love to go outside and run or something but I hurt my ankle so I'm lying here with ice on it. It should get better I imagine. It really isn't that serious. Not really swollen. Just such a weird limp. A vague pain.

I would love to go running.

But this new writing is making me feel good. It just annoys me how distracted I get online. I want to talk to people. I want to do something else.

I feel trapped by my distractibility sometimes. I swear I would go outside if my ankle didn't hurt. Maybe I should just go sit outside anyways. But it really isn't all that nice out. Well, it is okay out.

I just got on here cause I felt like I needed to vent a little bit about my writing frustration. I mean I've produced 7 or 8 pages today. That is good. Pretty good progress. But I just feel like I should be able to focus more than I am.

And it is especially funny and frustrating because I am writing about the issue of mediums, and specifically about the internet and how the medium encourages shallow and distracted thought. Booo hooooo.

Oh well.

Post Number 302

I appear to have gone past 300 posts without much celebration.

I didn't really notice. For my 100th and 200th post I made a big thing and did this:

1. blah

2. I'm Riley

3. Oh yeah!

All the way down to 100 and 200. It was a strange way to celebrate. But I know I really enjoyed it. I was very emotional for the 200th one, I remember.

But now I've accidentally bypassed my 300th and I'm not very worried about it.

Today I plan on working on my new essay. I think the title will end up being 'Relationships And Their Mediums: Possibilities, Inclinations, And Historical Knowledge'. Maybe something like that.

The distinction between possibilities and inclinations is one that I started working on back in november when I read Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains. At the time I had all kinds of questions about the issues of mediums, what they were, how they effected us. I wanted to know how far Carr's work extended. I think it extends quite far.

So this new essay is me picking up on that line of thought that I initiated in November. I wasn't able to pursue that line very closely because I wrapped up with 'Art, Zen, and Insurrection'. But now I feel ready to return to it.

I'm ready to do some work today because of my reflection on my writing I did yesterday.

But also because I really hurt my foot yesterday when I fell roller skating. How disappointing. Oh well. I'll be okay. I just need to ice my foot and relax. I got some books in bed with ice on my foot. Lets see how my writing goes in bed.

Over and out.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Second Thought...: On Reflexivity

I'm not sure if I agree with the post I wrote earlier this morning. Part of me really does still feel like writing things. And I realized that when I was in my kitchen. I was thinking about the writing project I initiated a week or so ago. And I was thinking about the book I just finished, Being Human: Historical Knowledge And The Creation Of Human Nature. A most interesting book.

The author, Roger Smith, is attempting to vindicate history and the humanities as 'sciences' that need to play an important role in how we understand ourselves as humans. Smith is convinced that we will not be able to understand ourselves and our humanity if we approach it only from the perspective of evolutionary, biological, of natural science. Only through historical knowledge and the study of texts, Smith maintains, can we understand what it means to be human.

We do not study history, however, just to learn what it means to be human. But, on the contrary, to actively create what it means to be human. This claim rests on Smith's epistemological outlook, which he spends the bulk of the book explicating. The main thing that Smith wants to analyze is the reflexive nature of knowledge about being human. The term reflexive "characterises the nature and consequences of people being both subject and object of knowledge.... One implication of this, since people are subject and object of knowledge, is that knowledge about human beings changes what people are" (8, my italics). The study of history, according to Smith, is fundamentally a process of reflection. We are always reflecting on ourselves when we study history. And because knowledge of being human is inherently reflexive, this historical reflection will always change what we are. This is the starting point of Collingwood, Foucault, and Ian Hacking's work. Smith claims that Hacking's work in Historical Ontology is his starting point.

So anyways, this is what I have been reading about. These issues of the reflexivity of knowledge and the possibility of self-creation through historical and philosophical work.

So maybe I should write more. Because the truth is that my major writing projects have always changed me. I can see myself change from project to project. 'Society's Implicit War' changed me. My work on 'Art, Zen, and Insurrection', although unfinished, definitely has changed me over the last 9 months. So perhaps this new writing on relationships and mediums will change me too. Well, it will definitely change me. But perhaps it will change me in ways that I find beneficial.

I shouldn't stop writing because I don't want to stop creating myself.

Less Reflection, Maybe

I'm feeling slightly less reflective about things. Well. I guess I should say I'm feeling less inclined to do large amounts of reflection through writing.

I am still thinking about things all the time.

My mind is casually reflective I think. I just think about things all the time. I don't really know how to stop and that is the way I like it.

But I don't feel like producing big essays. I feel like having lots of experiences that are reflective, but that I take less effort to make sense of.

Collingwood in Speculum Mentis says something about how all philosophy may have to be a philosophy of experience. That another philosophy may not be possible.

He says that people aren't going to create great philosophies about art, for example, if they just sit down and think and read about art for a long time. But that they need to go out and have all kinds of experiences with art and then begin to make sense of that experience.

Clausewitz, too, believed experience to be the greatest teacher.

So, I just want to get experiences. I want to go places with people and do things.

I want to read along the way so I can get synthetic experience too.

But real ass experience is what I want.

So what if I don't want to write. Wanna fight about it?

It is taking a bit of effort for me to come to terms with this. For a while I was writing sooo much. I was producing producing producing. And I still think that when my experience gets to a point in which I want to express myself through philosophical or poetic writing I will.

But I don't want to force writing right now. I want to let it flow from me. And that means waiting. Waiting is pretty crucial and super hard.

Still need to come to terms with waiting, too.

But I'll wait.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All People Are Real Ass People

Pop pop
Make my body move
It always rearranges

I'm grappling with some issues lately. In particular, I am thinking about people, about relationships.

The problem I am dealing with is that some of my interactions are so impersonal. They seem to be driven by nothing but labels.

The most telling example comes from my job: People think of me as nothing as a barista. This, I assume. They don't need to wonder about me. They just need to order treats and drinks from me. I am just so sensitive. I wonder about all of this.

But in a real philosophical way, language can govern and influence relationships.

Anyways, what I want to communicate is this: even though concepts and labels often govern our relationships, the best way to deal with people is to understand them is as emotionally and intellectually nuanced people.

People are never as simple as our labels make them out to be.

I hope to develop a philosophical defense of compassion.

I am so fucking serious.


But to develop this defense of compassion, to understand that people are so fucking serious, is pretty difficulty.

Because, I will admit, I have been willing to label certain people.

I have used my ability to label certain people as a way to leave them behind, as a way to bypass an intense analysis of them.

What. Do you want me to analyze everyone I meet? Impossible.

But I do not want to cease giving them the benefit of the doubt.

This is Collingwood's 'absolute ethics'.

This is my notion of 'forgiving everyone for everything'.

But seriously, that idea is too much for me to bear. To work out its implications, to feel it emotionally, it is too much.

God I love words.

God I love being young.

God I'm on the verge of explosion.

'God', I know I'm referring to a useless idea.

Fuck god.

Hail human self creation.

We are the lovers.

We are the ones to help and create one another,

God, I love you all.

God, we are real ass fucking people. I know it.

Our emotional lives are rich.

Please, can we care for one another?

Please, can we love through labels?

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Writing

I'm nine pages into a new essay and I'm really pleased.

I'm writing about a lot of different things.

The original, very tentative title is 'of relationships'. But as I'm writing I am realizing it is more specific than that. At the core of it is the attempt to create a historically informed theory of mind that would be of practical use in restructuring relationships in the present moment.

It is going to involve a brief talk of theory of mind, and a much more lengthy discussion of habits, mediums, and historical study of those former two things.

I'm just really pleased that I have this new idea in the works.

And more importantly, I feel like I'm picking up on a line of thought that I initiated in August but that I had no idea what to do with.

I'll hopefully have it done by the end of the month.

There Is No Patience

There is no more patience
I will always move
In and out in all directions

I care not for waiting
Because the inevitability
Of time is all that I need

I will always move
And you cannot stop me
I will always move

Because I am steadily
Steadily approaching death
I am the king of this place

I am the ruler of this
Glowing and rotating palace
That fuels my mind

I know that I pretend
That I crave its collapse
But the truth is I'm scared

Philosophical truths cannot
Be accepted in those moments
In which the imploded self becomes real

Don't fret
I'll fret for you

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I was on a roof deck in Belltown last night. I was looking around me at all of the buildings. They are all so tall. I couldn't believe the black glass on this one building. I couldn't believe the shape of these buildings. I looked at my friends and I told them I felt like I was in a Star War movie. Like I was in some fantasy world.

Sometimes the world around me feels so unfamiliar. Because when I really think about what it is, how it happened, how I happened within it, it all becomes completely strange and unfamiliar. Nothing feels self-evident or natural. Complete confusion.

But that is the perspective I would prefer to have. One in which novelty is hard to avoid. It is interesting, though, how I don't always have that view. Sometimes I'm wrapped up in the humdrum of my life. Things are ordinary and I drift without much thought.

But lately I've been pretty startled. Paying attention is easier.

Time is passing more slowly.

I don't know what I'm doing. It is funny.

Beaches And Minds

Today I went to Alki beach. Sure was a nice place. Burnt my tongue on some fish and chips. Read a book on the beach. Got my feet wet with cold water. Got sand all over me. It was a really nice time. The weather was super nice.

At the beach I continued to read Roger Smith's Being Human. I"m finding it quite compelling. It is slow going, a difficult read. He is dealing with very large disciplinary divides and making a lot of sense. I am so interested in how the bulk of the references are historical. The book, in many ways, is a history of epistemological beliefs in the natural and human sciences. Really enjoying it.

It is really the perfect thing for me to be reading right now. Especially with this new writing that I'm going to be doing. I am pleased because I think that what I'm really doing is picking up on a line of thought that I first began developing in my essay on the 'genealogy of the modern mind'. In that essay I was trying to explain how theory of mind had to become a historically informed project. To speak of a mind in the abstract, without a context, is inadequate. Not that it isn't useful. In fact, the scientific and philosophical analysis of minds in the abstract, like Alvin Goldman's work, is essential. But I don't think that it goes far enough. It doesn't offer us a way of changing our minds, working with our minds. It just describes minds for the sake of description. I think that if this type of theory of mind would be of much greater practical use if it were augmented by historical knowledge.

Smith's work is taking significant steps in this direction. His analysis of the idea of 'reflexive knowledge' seems pretty important. The idea is that we cannot propound any knowledge of 'human nature' without augmenting the way that people behave in the real world. The study of humans as an object makes real changes in the constitution of humans as subjects. Knowledge of humans is reflexive, the process of studying us changes us.

At the end of my essay on the genealogy of the modern mind I concluded that the project would have to result in us actively working to transform ourselves. How to do this, however, was not clear to me. So my new essay on relationships will be addressing that issue. How to use historical study to augment theory of mind so as to make it useful in actively transforming people's minds and worlds.

That is why the essay will move from the issue of minds, to the issue of habits, to the issue of mediums, to the solutions contained in a historically oriented theory of mind. What I'll be getting at is that we can't understand our own minds with a simple theory of mind. That we have to reckon with our minds at the level of habit. And that means we have to reckon with the question of the mediums that influence and create our habits. And to reckon with mediums is to reckon with culture, and thus to reckon with history.

I also think that the new essay in someways is about developing a philosophical defense of compassion. Because I believe that one of the implications of the historical approach to the mind is that we have to work a lot harder at compassion. I'm not sure how state this concisely right now. But it seems to be that if we begin thinking about the way our behavioral patterns are historically constituted, then we have to work harder to explain actions we find deplorable. It is what Collingwood calls absolute ethics: "The agent is now conscious of himself as absolute mind, and of every other agent, whether in agreement with himself or not, as coequal with himself. This means that he ceases to regard himself or his country or his party as in the right and everybody else in the wrong, but he regards all actions as manifestations of a will which is always and necessarily rational even when 'in the wrong', and therefore never wholly in the wrong. He thus sympathizes even with his opponents, and in proportion as he becomes truly rational he ceases to regard any one as an unmitigated opponent, but sees in every one a fellow-worker with himself in the cause of the good.... In absolute ethics the agent identifies himself with the entire world of fact, and in coming to understand this world prepares himself for the action appropriate to the unique situation" (304-5, my italics).

I look forward to finishing Smith's book. I also look forward to reading Elaine Scarry. I look forward to writing my new essay on relationships and history.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Forced Inward

Take that step for me
Enforce that movement
In both of our hearts

But let me tumble
Please let it be slow
I've always been fast

I was the hidden one
I was waiting to be
Something else in someone's eyes

A moment to become shocking
An instance of revelation
But I was revealed only to myself

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Latent Emotions In Philosophical Writing

In his Autobiography Collingwood calls philosophy 'a poem of the intellect'. Nietzsche is known to have called philosophy a form of personal confession. And Foucault once said that all of his books were parts of his autobiography. How interesting. I find this relationship between philosophy and personal expression to be really cool, really worthwhile, really curious.

I ask myself about my own attempts at philosophical writing. I wouldn't dare really think of myself as a genuine philosopher. But I read a lot of philosophy. I think about a lot of philosophy. I try to write on it. And I don't feel comfortable with mere analysis of other writers. I strive for synthesis. And I think that this pushes me towards the new.

In the last two months or so the Art, Zen, Insurrection project has fizzled out. For the most part I think I'm okay with it. The truth, I think, is that the project should have ended with Part III.3. Well, but at the same time that isn't true, there is a continuity to pursue all the way to the end of Part IV. It just involves such a large detour to bring it all together. And I don't feel equipped to do it. To write coherently on the relationship between politics and culture seems too difficult, my reading not supporting it enough.

I don't know if I'll ever finish the project. I have no clue.

But I do feel super pleased with the writing that I did leading up to my fizzling out. It was personally valuable stuff. I did a lot of it. It was super fun. I think I stretched myself and came up with lots of new ideas. But now I don't know what to do.

And this is what I really want to talk about: the way that AZI expressed emotions that I was experiencing. At the time I wasn't completely aware of the things I was expressing. My life was changing a lot. I was living in a new city, working a new job, doing all kinds of new things, getting super confused. I was reading tons of new things, pushing myself to write in new ways. I was having all kinds of unreflective experiences that were strange and all over the place.

Only in hindsight can I say that AZI was one of my ways of expressing this confusion. I was baffled by my entry into the working world, I was trying to make sense of how to live in it and to still maintain my sense of myself as an expressive person. How am I to do high paced cafe work that encourages me to be robotic and still be expressive, fun, imaginative? Hard questions. And ones that I was living on a daily basis. I lashed out at first. In particular, I am thinking of this essay and this one too. That first piece, 'In Defense Of Small Talk', was such a desperate attempt to philosophically ground the emotions I was feeling, to intellectualize the pain that my new situation was causing me. I think I was just so wrapped in my emotions that I had to clarify them in some way. And that second piece, 'Bottled Water And Irresponsible Metaphors', was also me trying to get a grip on the emotions that my work was causing me. While in the first piece I was grappling with how people were regarding me in my economically defined role, the second piece focused on how my job forced me to do things that I mentally disapproved of (i.e. stocking bottled water). All of my other philosophical writing, I think, is expressive of my emotions and my experience in some way. But those two pieces and all of AZI are absolutely all about the experiences I have been having for the last year. Oh, the emotion.

In any case, I am pleased that I am starting to understand the ways that my philosophical writing expresses my emotions. And further, how that writing then changes my emotions. This is the phenomenon of 'reflexivity' that I am currently reading about in Roger Smith's Being Human. The bottom line with the humanities and social sciences is that we cannot study humans completely objectively. Any type of study of humanity inevitably changes the thing it is studying. By studying society or by studying minds we change them. When I study my own mind through this writing I change it. And that is the point (duh).

Given all this interaction between my emotions, my writing, my expression, my change, all that business, I have been feeling quite determined to come up with a new bit of writing. I have been having a lot of experiences that I need to grapple with. I have feelings that I need to convert to the intellectual level. This new writing is going to be on relationships, taking the term in its absolute broadest sense. Every person I have ever met I have had a relationship with. All of you coworkers I walk past, all of you regular customers, all of you. We all have relationships. But why do we relate in these particular ways?

I came on this idea of relationships recently. I said to myself at some point, what the hell have we been thinking about? All this jim jam about theory of mind, about philosophy of history, about education, about the imagination, about synthetic experience, about this and that. What the hell am I talking about at the bottom of it all? It occurred to me that the core issue might be that of relationships in general. Framing all of my thinking in terms of relationships might be for the best. This would be a way to deal with a lot of it.

So anyways, the new essay is tentatively titled 'Of Relationships: Bringing The Macro To Bear On The Micro'.

So far I have decided I will have four sections which roughly move from a micro perspective to a macro perspective:

1. Minds
2. Habits
3. Mediums
4. History

I'll begin with theory of mind so that I can establish the tendencies of individual minds. I'll then move to habit to talk about minds from a different angle. Then the issue of mediums and how they create habits. And finally philosophy of history as a way to gain perspective on this stuff.

I envision the structure something like a series of baskets. > > > >.

They will flow. They will fit in. I might have to reverse habits and mediums. But I hope to start filling in the outline a bit more in the next few days.

I think the crucial issue in a way is freedom. I have never felt free. I guess I'm free. But at the same time I've always been aware of all the things determining me or holding me back.

I want the issue to be freedom.

Over and out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reading This Roger Smith Fellow

I'm reading a new book. Roger Smith's Being Human: Historical Knowledge And The Creation Of Human Nature.

I will say a few things. First about the author. The second thing about my impression of the arguments. The third thing about my reason for turning to this book.

So, the thing that concerns me about Mr. Smith is that I know very little about his credentials. He is a historian of science, and the human sciences in particular. He lives in Russia and is affiliated with a couple universities including Durham University, and a institute in Moscow. I have no idea who he is. Hayden White has a very intense blurb on the dust jacket and so it seems to be legit. His bibliography is most interesting. Collingwood, Foucault, Ian Hacking, Hegel, many others. He seems to have earned his chops as a historian, but n this work he is pursuing an expressly philosophical. But he still seems to be using history as his major point of reference. So, the first problem is this: Mr. Smith is a mystery to me. I worry about his credentials. And I find his personal life to be a mystery. I don't know who he is, and I seem to be having a hard time finding information about him. The book, however, was published by Columbia University Press, and so that gives me a little bit of hope about its quality.

The last book I finished was Edward Hallett Carr's What Is History?. In that book Mr. Carr says that to study history you must also study the historian and the situation in which that history was being written. So I am eager to approach books in that way.

So, the second part, the arguments: Mr. Smith wants to make sure that history as a form of knowledge is properly understood. In particular, he thinks that the discourse around the issue of 'human nature' needs to have historical and philosophical perspective if it is to be valid. In the English speaking world, Smith claims, we are apt to think of science and specifically biology as the most important source of knowledge about what it means to be human. Smith claims, on the contrary, that biology cannot provide us with the information that we need to understand what it means to be human, what it means to be both the subject and object of knowledge about human nature. He claims that Ian Hacking's work in the field of historical ontology is the foundation of his work. This pleases me because I have read much of Hacking's book Historical Ontology. He quotes Hacking when he says that "Categories of people come into existence at the same time as kinds of people come into being to fit those categories, and there is a two-way interaction between these processes" (Smith, 12). Foucault is one of Hacking's major influences (if not his most important influence). Indeed, Foucault provided the phrase 'historical ontology' in his fascinating essay from 1984 "What Is Enlightenment." Furthermore, this idea of the interaction of behavior and categories is implicit in much of Foucault's work, most notably in Discpline & Punish and Volume I of The History Of Sexuality. Moreover, this notion is explicitly corroborated by John Searle's work in Making The Social World. So, having read only the introduction and a little bit of Mr. Smith's book I see a sort picture forming: a picture in which human nature is something that can be self-consciously created by reference to the ability of language to constitute certain experiences and forms of behavior. I suspect that my journey through the whole of the book will give me a much more nuanced view of the way that these issues relate to the natural and human sciences, and to history.

The reasons I have turned to this book are many. For one thing, I have been personally invested in the union of Foucault, Collingwood, Hacking, Searle, and others for the last few years. I care a lot about the philosophy of history, I think it has been largely ignored, and I suspect that its implications are quite significant. Further, my (very) recent realization that the issue of relationships is at the core of my thought has pushed me to think about humans, history, human nature, technology, etc., has pushed me towards it.

I have a lot of thinking left to do (as usual). But I am pleased to be reading this book. Richard Restak's Think Smart turned out to be too dry. And Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor: Warning And Decision turned out to be too difficult for me right now. So this book will be a wonderful way to continue my philosophical reading while maintaining a historical orientation.

I wonder sometimes, especially with me frustration with Wohlstetter, if history is the discipline for me. I feel so much more inclined to be a philosophical thinker. I thrive so much in terms of philosophical reading. That doesn't mean that I can't become a powerful historical thinker, or that I couldn't become a good historian. It just means that my reading over the last year has been devoted to this kind of philosophical reading. I just have so much work to do to become a historical thinker.

But I suspect it to be of the highest importance.

Hopefully Mr. Smith can take me somewhere.

Over and out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Relationships and Concepts

I recently left myself a note on my ipod. I wanted to write about something. I wrote to myself:

'Customer service and conceptual interaction. Relationships fascinate me. That is what it is all about in a way for me. How we relate, how we interact, what the mediums are that we use. I resent my conceptual self. Contacts? Glasses? Aprons? Suits? So on.'

I don't know exactly what I was thinking.

I know that I had an idea. I had a way of phrasing something that I have previously put in very abstract terms. I've talked a lot about the dangers of theory-theory, about the tension between language and empathy, about the importance of simulation theory, so on. I've run around these topics in different ways.

But I think that what I'm really getting at is the issue of relationships and how they happen. What are the properties of the human mind that allow us to engage with other people? Are there tendencies of the mind that conflict with one another? What is unique about relationships in our time?

There is one thing in particular that I think I have been able to identify that is unique about relationships in our time: we live in a world that has been depersonalized. I think that there are two things that contribute to this. First, technology and the internet make it so that we interact with people in very distant ways, we see people on screens, so on. Second, I think that categorization and generalization has become a more common feature of our culture. These two things are related. Technology, science, the internet, all of that, has made it possible for people to communicate rapidly and in large amounts, and therefore for concepts and labels to become ubiquitous. We now share a common vocabulary. And unfortunately I think it traps us in certain patterns of relationships sometimes.

It reminds me of Walter Benjamin's essay on the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproduction. Frankly, I don't understand the essay very well. But he talks about how the reproducibility of art has something to do with the reproducibility of people's consciousnesses. We can produce art and culture mechanically. And somehow this also implies that we can produce people's perceptual apparatuses mechanically.

Think about it, with the way that our language and our perception our intertwined, the formalization and mechanization of language must have something to do with the mechanization of perception.

Benjamin seems to be concerned with people's cognitive and sensory apparatuses. So did Foucault. So does Collingwood.

I think that even my recent reading on the relationship between politics and culture has pushed me towards this issue of relationships and their parameters.

I don't know what to think. I don't want to continue writing.

But I will say this: I think that relationships are at the core of what I think about. And I would probably benefit from honing in on this issue of relationships.

I suspect that relationships (of all kinds) are the most important thing, and that history, philosophy, other things, are merely ways of investigating, understanding, exploring relationships.

Who knows.

Writing About Not Wanting To Write

I feel kind of confused about how to write these days. I don't know what to write about. I don't know what to do with myself.

So I'm writing about how I don't want to write. Seems funny.

I need to shower. I should probably clean and do things like that.

I should also be reading. I think reading would be the best thing for me to do. Or maybe not reading. Maybe just relaxing would be better.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Freedom Within The Absolute Mind

So I need to write an essay at some point. Just for fun, just to explore things.

I think I can write something about the issue of freedom and choice and free will.

I think I can write about Collingwood and Foucault and Zizek.

It will cover some stuff like this:

1. The Absolute Mind And Determinism
2. Culture, Foucault, And Determinism
3. Retroactive Freedom

I don't think that is a very good outline. I'm not sure what I think.

It fascinates me how I used to just pump out little essays. I have become less satisfied with just a 15-20 page analysis of a very specific idea. I feel myself compelled to try to form larger pictures, longer pieces.

I dunno.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


There is a compatibility that I felt emerging between Collingwood, Foucault, Zizek, Claxton, and some others. The problem was with Collingwood's notion of the absolute mind, and of absolute ethics. It implies determinism and it is hard to know where free will goes with an idea like that. But it makes sense.

It makes sense in light of Zizek's notion of retroactive freedom, on choosing one's destiny.

Ummmm. In some ways I see a picture developing in my mind. My recent reading on politics, culture, habit, etc., has been pushing me towards something. It might be coming together.

Also, Elaine Scarry has a book called Thinking In An Emergency that looks fascinating. The crux of the book is a philosophical investigation into the nature of habit. Habit in politics, in society, in emergencies. Looks fascinating. Doesn't cite Zizek or Collingwood or anyone I know on habit. So, yeah. Interesting stuff.

I was looking at that vague outline I posted last time (which isn't even a real outline). But just mulling over those issues of culture, politics, habit, choice, history, etc..

Just a lot of pieces that are floating around in my mind that don't make sense right now.

But that is okay. I just wonder how long it'll take. A long time i bet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June? June?!: Still Hung Up On Culture And Habit

June first, eh?

I have a hard time believing that it is June.

For one thing, my friend was right in that the weather is still pretty lame.

But I mean I guess that is fine.

But it seems weird. Just strange.

I haven't been doing serious writing, still.

Still taking a break from all of that. It feels nice to be relaxing a bit.

I'm reading though. Currently halfway through Edward Hallett Carr's book What Is History? Is definitely right up my alley. Philosophy of history is such a fascinating field. I need to read more of it. Much more!

I was reflecting on how some of my shorter pieces of writing are just about flash, quick analyses of certain things. I frame things, and I explore small interconnections between different things.

If I wanted to write on habit (which I do), for example, I would just figure out what kinds of things I'd want to talk about in order to talk about habit. I would talk about Zizek and Gray and their work on culture and habit. I would then talk about how culture happens, how culture is created. For that I could use Foucault and Claxton and others. Then I would talk about theories of mind (cause that is something I always do) and how habit would effect us at that level of mindreading.

So, to write an essay on habit would look something like this.

1. Culture and Habit in general
2. On the How Of Culture: On The Creation And Maintenance of Culture
3. Culture and Mental Habits: Theory of Mind, etc..
4. On Changing Personal Habits
5. On Changing Social Habits, Or, On Creating Cultures

Lol. Bogus stuff.

But at the same time very interesting stuff.

One of the main claims of Zizek's In Defense Of Lost Causes was that past political revolutions were not radical enough in that they were not truly social or cultural revolutions: they did not succeed in so radically restructuring the social world so as to create a new set of habits for people to live by. The morning after political power is seized we are still left with the reality of our existing economic and cultural institutions.

These are ideas I have been sitting with for a few months now. I once saw an article that accused the US military of allowing a masculine and sexist culture to thrive. But the question I had was this: did the US military ever work at cultivating its culture? Did they ever think that they could perhaps create a culture? Or was that military culture something that just sort of happened?

I just feel like these issues of politics, culture, habit, education, etc., are very fascinating. And the idea I have been pondering, which Zizek also explores, is the need to create new cultures and new habits in order to create new political institutions. Errr. I wonder if that is the best way to put it.

But politics, culture, and habit. What things.

I was thinking about how I wrote a little while ago about Foucault and Claxton. I still that it makes. Foucault believes disciplinary society, disciplinary culture, was created through the control of very basic things like space, time, movement, etc.. Claxton, too, thinks that culture is created (in schools) through the control of those basic things. So, then, looks like city planners and other people would be really valuable people to know. Those that control our sense of space and time. Yup.

I'll have to talk to some people.