Sunday, August 28, 2011

August

August has flown by. I'm not sure what I've been doing. For the most part I've just been socializing and looking for a new job. I've been reading a little bit. But I had to take a break from philosophy.

I read Naked Lunch and honestly didn't like it very much. It was a pretty frustrating book.

Right now I'm reading a book called Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy And The Specter Of Inverted Totalitarianism.

It excites me because it gives me a sense of a concrete line of historical and political research that I could carry out. I find the relationship between government, corporations, the military, and the universities. Really fascinating stuff.

Compelled me to buy a copy of a book called The Cold War And The University. Really really interested.

I may end up researching something like that for graduate work.

But yeah. Practicalities are dominated my life right now. A job hunt. Ordinary living.

Oh well!

I have an idea for an essay.

It would be titled 'Atonal Worlds, Master Signifiers, And Clausewitzian Theory Of Choice'.

Zizek's book Violence was what really clicked and made me feel like I could write something extended. Especially the chapter 'Sexuality In The Atonal World'.

I look forward to writing it. But I'm not sure when I will.

Over and out.

NO POEMS RIGHT NOW.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Only Feel My Own Pain

This one is for my friend.

Because I believe him.

And I don't believe myself.

I want to be able to feel everyone's pain.

But I'm so locked in to my own world.

I'm not able to escape it.

I am in such a rut in my life.

I'm lying in my bed waiting for the morning.

I'm hot.

I'm listening to the people walk by. I listen to them talk.

I'm envious of them.

I'm jealous.

I am NOT okay with them walking around.

Mainly because I'm not walking outside with new people these days.

I've settled.

I've settled into something and I need to become unsettled again.

I'm unsettled in my settledness and I am only feeling my own pain.

My world is shrinking.

I'm fussy and irritable and I don't care because I need to feel those ways in order to change things.

I need to get a little bit pissed because I need to do something different.

I need to change my god damn life.

And I can't do that unless I'm a little bit pissed off.

Because if I wasn't pissed off then I wouldn't feel the need for change.

Where did all this anger come from?

I wonder when I first felt it or worried about it.

I wonder how angry I really am.

A big part of me says pretty angry.

Pretty furious. But in the stupidest ways. In this way in which I state blankly. In which I wait and wait and wait and just explode internally. Implode externally.

Just silly words.

I don't feel your pain. I can't afford to think about your pain right now.

But of course I can!

And of course I feel your pain!

I feel many people's pain.

But I will admit that I'm feeling my own pain more than feeling other people's pain.

My capacity for empathy is not at its peak right now because my own perspective is consuming me.

I've been listening to my headphones on the bus again. And we all know how much that contributes to an isolated perspective. Not only are we living our own movie, but our movie has a soundtrack that no one else can hear.

Oh well!

OH well!

I feel your pain.

I do.

But I don't want to right now.

Because I'm feeling my own pain a good bit.

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aspects Of The Philosophy Of History

I'm trying to slowly return to working on my essay on Mediums and Relationships.

The third section, where I left off, is on the philosophy of history.

I have been struggling to even begin to think about the philosophy of history.

But tonight I have written a page or two and I have been able to parse the philosophy of history into several different questions. By clarifying the questions posed by the discipline I am hoping to understand how those questions will help me with my questions.

I've decided that there are at least four different problems in philosophy of history.

One question regards the proper object of history: what is it that historians study? Is it events? Is it actions? Is it thought? Another regards the proper purpose of historical study: do we study the past because it is valuable in its own right? Do we study it to understand ourselves? Do we study it to make better political decision? Do we study it to help us create ourselves? Another question regards the epistemological foundations of historical study: how do we know what we know about history? And finally, I’ll say that another regards the meaning of history: when we study history do we see the linear development of rationality? Do we see the movement of cycles? Do we see human nature being played out? Or do we see a process by which human beings create themselves?

That is what I wrote tonight.

I'm undoubtedly treading on well-worn territory. Other people have wondered about these things. But now I need to keep wondering about history.

Contact Lenses And My Imagined Self

I've been wearing contact lenses sometimes lately. I'm wearing them right now.

I see better with glasses on. But I still like it.

But I walk in front of the mirror and I'm like 'WHO IS THIS STRANGER IN MY APARTMENT'.

Well it isn't that dramatic.

But I do experience this moment where I don't quite recognize myself.

I imagine myself having glasses. I'm comfortable imagining myself that way.

I just got new glasses, too. I have to reimagine myself.

I have to reconfigure my model of myself.

Modeling. Imagination. Collingwood. Frith. All these people. All these ideas.

This post is nothing to think about.

But the issue of modeling, of imagination, of the self, all of that is to be thought about.

But not right here or right now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking

Looking for something is a fascinating experience.

I am looking for a bottle. I know it is blue. I'm look around my apartment. I don't know where it is. I want it. I'm going to find it.

But how do I go about looking for it?

What does it mean to look for something?

It means that we don't know where it is and we want it and are going to attempt to find it.

But how do you do it?

How do you explain to someone how to look for something?

Does it involve focus? Does it involve reasoning?

Or does it involve something a little more subtle?

I think it involves something a little more subtle.

I think it requires an open field of vision in which you are looking at everything without focusing on something in particular.

I think it is about dispersing your attention.

It would be possible to intensionally rationalize and to focus on all the little spots that it 'should be'.

'Oh, well I always walk this way, so it must be along this path.'

I read once that we misplace things because we break our routines, because we go some place and put something in spots where we don't usually. But then we confuse ourselves by thinking about our routines. We decide to look in the places that we normally go. We looks towards familiar spots. But we should be looking in those places that we don't usually go.

It is like that famous joke about a man who is looking for his keys under a streetlight even though he lost them somewhere in the dark. He looks in the lit area because he can see.

Once I lost my headphones at work. I was walking around outside looking for them. I retracted my steps multiple times and I finally found them somewhere.

I talked to a friend about how it was a fascinating experience. How it was an interesting mental/phenomenological experience. He asked if it was a good exercise in controlling my emotions. I told him that it was an interesting experience in controlling my rationality.

Because I think that looking is harmed by too much thought. I think that looking means abandoning ideas and just looking. It means keeping your attention wide, keeping your focus dispersed. You look at an entire room and you trust that your unconscious is going to pull your attention to the object you are looking for.

I once told this friend that I thought that thinking worked much like the National Archives (where we worked together): You fill out a request slip, you hand it to the archivist, and you wait for the information to be retrieved for you. Sometimes it comes quickly. Sometimes it takes a while.

I think that at some point I have a question. And then I wait for my minds answer. Sometimes I coax my mind along by thinking logically. But often I have no idea what sort of logical trains to follow. I have no idea how to continue thinking.

How to continue thinking. How to think differently.

That is the problem.

And I think that looking requires an openness to think in many different ways. To transcend or shed thought. To just look.

Maybe that is why John Gray asked "Cant we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?" Maybe Gray didn't mean the same thing.

But maybe he did.

There is something going on with looking. With paying attention. Zen. All that. Whatever.

I found what I was looking for tonight. It was a blue bottle.

I wonder if I can starting looking at my life the way I looked at my apartment tonight.

But I don't know.

Because in life, unlike in my apartment, I don't know what I'm looking for.

Wild Beasts

So lately I have really been digging on Smother, the new album by Wild Beasts. I am really excited by the cd. And I'm excited to be excited about the cd. I love when I love music.

And this album is super cool.

The song 'Loop The Loop' might be my favorite so far. It just pops so much. Fascinating vocals. Writing about music is hard. But I love this one part around 2 minutes in where the song hits the beginning of the climax. A cymbal splashes and the song gains a new momentum. You can feel it working towards something stronger than it has shown you yet. Then he busts out an intense vocal performance. Saying:

"Forget now
How many must I
Forget now
How many must I
Forget now
How many must I forget?

Remember
As many as I
Remember
As many as I
Remember
I must forget.

Regret now
How many do I
Regret now
How many do I
Regret now
How many do I
Regret?

Slender
Oh there are some but they're
Slender
Oh there are some but they're
Slender
Oh there are some but they're
Slender sums I regret."

Something about the lyrics, and especially their delivery, really hits me. Really makes me feel good. Makes me feel emotional. And that is what I really like about music. That expressiveness. His voice really does it.

Those lyrics make me think about choice. About living. About loss. Oh well. Just vague issues to deal with.

The song 'Albatross' also sticks out to me a lot. It is so hard to capture the song in words. To explain it. I understand a friend's project a little more trying to write about a cd. Because it is tough. But this song sounds like it is about relationships to me:

"I, I blame you, I blame you
For all of those things I've been through
Don't feel bad, not a pang
It's my neck around which you hang
Like a chain or a tag
I flinch and you fall through the cracks
To the sea and all it bears
The secrets that I should've shared
They drowned then and there
Yeah drowned then and there
Yeah drowned then and there"

Again, his voice is so powerful. It really is inseparable from the lyrics for me.

The last song on the album 'End Come To Soon and Death' is also really interesting. It is longer than the rest (7 minutes), and is very interesting. It makes me think about death.

I would like to try and write about music more regularly. This was an interesting exercise.

But I'm very tired, and didn't even write very substantially on this album.

But I really like it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Absurd

My dad recently sent me an article by Thomas Nagel. It was titled 'The Absurd'.

It made me think about a lot of things.

My thinking is still focusing around historical ontology and the philosophy of action.

It seems that the notion of the absurd plays a role.

I'm still lost.

I'm still thinking a lot.

I'm glad my dad sent me this essay because I fucking loved reading it.

I fucking love reading philosophy.

Reading this thing I was like 'oh my god I love reading stuff like this'.

I just eat it up.

I want to start reading more philosophy.

I'm almost done with Naked Lunch.

After that I'll turn to reading some more philosophical stuff.

Then hopefully my writing will take off.

Whatever.

I just love philosophy so much.

Get over it, Riley.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

OMG

OMG I'm so baffled by a lot of things.

I'm wearing contact lenses right now.

I really am not sure how well I can see with them in or not. They feel very strange to me. I feel like my vision isn't all that good with them. It is better than with no glasses at all. But it still isn't all that awesome.

Vision is so fucking weird.

Everything is so weird.

My body!

My poor body is going to break down someday!

I'm always fascinated by injuries.

Every time I hurt myself I think about it. I think about my body, about how it can break, about all the things that happen to it.

What a common point of reflection this must be. Everyone knows that their body breaks down and changes. I get fatter if I drink a lot of beer and eat a lot of bad things. I get hurt if I fall down and recovering might take months.

I can't do everything all the time. But I want to.

And for gods sake I can't even think all the time if I want to.

I can't even think sometimes.

I can't even sort my thoughts.

I don't even want to sort my thoughts.

I fear the path I'm setting for myself.

I fear the trajectory I'm setting for myself.

I'm very afraid. But thats okay I'm trying to be okay with it. I'm okay with it on some level because I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

I've been spending a lot of money lately. I've been making a lot of investments. New glasses. New things. New shoes. New contacts. A new face. A new look. A new anything.

What I really want right now is new things. New spaces. I'll deal with everything. But I want something new.

What do I want from myself?

I don't want to push up my graduate school plans. I want to keep living in Seattle. I want to keep living a confused life. I want to be better. I want to work different hours.

Really Not Writing

I'm really not writing very much right now.

I have a lot of other things that are occupying my thoughts.

And plus I've been reading Naked Lunch with some friends and it has been irritating me.

Typically when my reading suffers my writing suffers.

And unfortunately I don't feel like I'm thriving with Burroughs. Oh well.

I have all kinds of thoughts still floating around about historical ontology, theory of action, habits, and so on. All kinds of messes to sort thanks to Foucault, Hacking, Smith, Collingwood, Scarry, so on.

Meh!

I don't have to patience right now.

I need to be more concerned with the basic aspects of my life right now. I can't deal with philosophical thinking in depth right now. The basics are in turmoil. I can't afford to spend a lot of time thinking abstractly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Yes

My mental mess is beginning to work itself out in some ways.

I think I have been able to identify a clearer relationship between historical ontology and a theory of action than I have previously been aware of. But for some reason I still don't have the energy to really do a lot of writing about it. I still think I will be able to do the writing at some point in the near future. I just don't know when or how exactly.

I just can't seem to read or write these days.

I'm just really restless.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sorting My Mental Mess

I was telling a friend today about the thinking I'm working on. Questions of mediums, minds, history, choice, action.

The whole thing needs to be about a theory of action. A philosophy of action. I just want to understand why we do what we do. Why we do it the way we do. How we choose the things we do.

It is a big mess. A big web of ideas that I don't understand the connections.

But it made a bit of sense when I was telling my friend about it.

It was making sense when I was talking about Zizek on retroactive freedom. It becomes a more and more appealing idea. Especially when I am able to explain it with Collingwood's definition of the imagination. I think that it helps.

Who knows.

But I'm sorting thoughts. Maybe I'll be able to write soonish.

Maybe this or that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Theory Of Choice

A lot of my recent posts have been revolving around this idea of a theory of choice. Choice seems like such a central concept. One that we assume is valid and real. But one we don't always define precisely. I want to be able to define choice in some meaningful way.

I was thinking about the American dream. The idea of entrepreneurship. The idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I think it is a crock.

I think choice needs to be conceptualized in very different ways.

I think that Badiou's notion of the atonal world has a part to play in it.

I think Zizek's notion of retroactive freedom has a lot to do with it.

I am too tired to really write about this.

But this is the issue I am finding myself drawn towards.

The issue of action.

The issue of choice.

Really, we can just do things.

Maybe I should spend more time just doing things and less time thinking about how to do them.

Because they are in some ways incompatible.

Not entirely. Habit is a great example of how thought and action can be intertwined and made compatible.

But god dammit I spend too much time thinking.

What bull shit.

I need to do more things. I need to walk more. Go more places.

Fuck.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Violence Violence Violence. War War War.

Tonight I went out with a friend and his brother.

I had never met his brother before.

But his brother was a member of ROTC.

I really enjoyed talking with him. I thought he was a really thoughtful person. I felt like he had a lot of views that I wanted military members to have. He supported things like racial and sexual equality. He was very with it.

But talking to him reminded me more than ever of my interest in the military. My interest in war. My interest in violence.

Perhaps I'll share an anecdote to make this clearer. I have been getting to know a friend recently (shout of to j-dawg). Me and him share an interest in Zen and Buddhism. We were chatting one night and he told me about something he was reading. He said that certain people believe that in order to understand our own lives we need to understand the entire cosmos. That knowledge needs to be total, from the individual mind to the nature of the entire universe.

And my immediate reaction is, WHAT?!

Cosmic understanding WHAT?!

You want me to understand the entire cosmos?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Shall I flip out now or later?

The only option is to flip out now.

Because that notion conflicts with my deepest assumptions.

Today I told a coworker that it was fascinating to make assumptions explicit. When you take something that you have assumed, that has existed on an implicit level, and you make it explicit, things change. Suddenly things are raised to a higher level of consciousness. You are aware of yourself in ways that you weren't before.

And in that moment with J-dawg one of my assumptions was made explicit.

I assume that the highest reality (intellectually, analytically) is the political and social world.

The thing that I must analyze is the political and social world.

To ponder the cosmos is quite serious, but for some reason, feels inadequate or silly.

The world that needs to be contemplated is the political world.

And I don't mean to imply that there is a complete disconnect between the cosmic and the political world. That is one reason that I want to revisit John Searle's chapter 'Language as Biological and Social' in Making The Social World. Because there is undoubtedly a relationship between the natural (cosmic) world and the social and historical world.

But can violence, war, and politics be explained by references to the cosmic world?

I don't know.

But I need to pursue military history.

I am very upset.

I don't know how to continue to think about violence and war.

I think that Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point might be a good book for me to turn to.

I hope I read it.

I hope you love me.

I hope I love you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Theory Of Choice and Philosophy Of History

The next section of my essay 'Relationships and Mediums' is supposed to be on the philosophy of history. But for some reason I can't bring myself to write about it. What kind of questions am I trying to answer by writing about history? What am I trying to get at?

And I think what I am really trying to get at is a theory or philosophy of choice. I want to know what it means to choose something, what it means to be free. And more specifically, what it means to choose something based on historical knowledge.

Part of it has to do with Zizek's work on the philosophy of The Act. His notion of retroactive freedom is a big part of it. I think a lot of what is going on with Zizek requires a more developed philosophy of history to really make sense.

I'm not really reading much right now except Naked Lunch. I'm not really writing a lot right now. I'm confused and sort of ruminating on my life and other things. Don't feel the need to really push myself to read.

I'm thinking about revisiting some books. Namely Decoding Clausewitz and Making The Social World. They are important books for me that I haven't studied enough yet.

Oh well.

I'll get back to this issue of choice and philosophy of history at some point. Foucault On Freedom will be a valuable book for thinking about that stuff, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Military History And Choice

I think a lot of my writing has to do with choice and freedom. These are issues that really confuse me. They are often spoken of casually. Sometimes they seem to be obvious or self-evident concepts. But I don't know. They confuse me.

Then I was walking home and I was thinking about my education. I was thinking about my background in military history. And how perhaps the most important thing I learned was to think about complex decision making. I was reading Clausewitz and I was forced to think about the way that decisions are made. How do people make complex and difficult decisions? An interesting question. And one that eventually collapses into the need for a theory of choice.

And a cursory glance at the internet shows that there are already theories of choice in existence. Duh. Of course people have already theorized about choice. I'll have to catch up on that literature.

Rational choice theory is one theory of choice that I have a problem with. It was originally developed by political scientists. It is a method of studying history and political decision making. Its fundamental assumption is that all political actors are rational actions, and can therefore be explained. Reading Clausewitz immediately problematizes this idea.

Clausewitz believes that political decision is far too complex and rapid to allow the time required for ratiocination. Instead, political leaders need to rely on intuition: on the ability to quickly make and communicate complex decisions with limited and uncertain information.

Anyways, I think that I need to focus more explicitly on the issue of choice. That is what my undergraduate education really forces me to reflect on.

I think I should reflect more on Clausewitz.

And more particularly, I think I should try to articulate the relationship between habit and intuition. Intuition is something I learned about quite a while ago and really have read and thought about. A bit, but of course not enough. Habit, however, is a newer idea for me. It is one I have also thought about for a while, albeit in different terms. So perhaps that would be a good thing to write about.

I also wanted to write a short piece on the idea of history as the history of thought.

Maybe all of this should just be subsumed in the next section of my essay on mediums.

Also, someone told me at work today that I need to just lose myself in fiction. And I think they are right. Maybe.

I just love nonfiction so much.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Theory of Mind and Human Self-Creation

I have a whole lot of thoughts that I'm struggling to sort.

The main thing on my mind is theory of mind.

What is the mind? How does it work?

The American philosophy I have read primarily addresses the second question.

There are two main answers.

1. The mind works by internally simulating the thoughts of other people from the evidence available to them. I.E. The mind works through empathy and extended forms of empathy. We reconstruct other people's thoughts in our own minds through their expressions, gestures, and words.

2. The mind works by drawing on tacit psychological theories. We are all naive psychologists that make inferences about other people's behavior. We are all use a process that is intuitive but if made explicit resembles the deductive logic used by scientists.

This is a fascinating divide. How could these two properties exist in the same mind? Well, it seems to me that both of these mental properties could easily exist within the human mind. We have mirror neurons, we have the capacity for empathy. But we also have language and the ability to generalize. We have the ability to label people and to make generalizations about other people. Language is such a fucking bitch. It is so confusing. It blurs the line between natural and constructed in the weirdest god damn ways.

So, my problem: I am convinced that both of these things are natural properties of the human mind. We are capable of empathizing. We are capable of generalizing and labeling. So what to do? What the fuck are we going to do?

Because, frankly, I think labeling is really fucking dangerous. To be comfortable with labels is to be lost. To think that your categories are accurate is to be fooled. And sure, I am hyperbolizing here. No doubt. But still, I think that we are way too comfortable with out labels. They rationalize inequality and disengaged behavior.

I think the solution to this problem lies in the notion of human self-creation. Because the truth is we can't accept our labels as facts. Instead, we need to embrace a certain epistemological view advanced by Ian Hacking, Roger Smith and Foucault: we need to accept that our nature is constituted primarily by what we say we are. We need to understand that human knowledge is reflexive. That we become what we say we are. That we create ourselves through the narratives that we construct about ourselves.

This is a way to temper the divide between theory-theory and simulation theory. We need to see that our empathy (simulation) is always grounded in a world of abstract (theoretical) concepts. And that by modifying our personal narratives we will be modifying the theory of ourselves, and thus modifying the way that we empathize with others.

In short, if we are willing to rethinking the ways that we conceptualize ourselves and others we will be able to revolutionize the way that we empathize with ourselves and others. If we take the time to create ourselves through narratives then we will be able to empathize with ourselves in new ways.

I have been drinking and all of this is unclear. But there is something very serious happening with these ideas. Simulation theory, theory-theory, and the notion of reflexivity have huge implications.

I am freaking out.

My mind is sorting.

And I will fucking sort.

I swear. I really do.

I'll figure something out someday.

Jesus.

I cannot express my emotions intensely enough.

Philosophy makes me insane.

Work makes me insane.

I am so emotional and so full of thoughts.

My mind goes through such strange fits of twirling and moving,

Why is philosophy taken so lightly?

Shall I flip out more?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Externalization. Restless, Autonomous Externalization.

August has officially begun and I am unofficially restless.

Being in Maine seeing my family was a really nice time. I enjoyed seeing everyone. And my first two days back in Seattle have been super nice and filled with friends and nice weather and lots of fun.

But my life has been on hiatus for a week and now I'm back in the thick of it without being in the thickest of it.

Tomorrow (today) I'll be going back to work. Work is fun for me. But I'm not sure how I'm feeling about it these days. Work is such a weird part of life and I don't know what to do with myself.

And I don't know exactly what to do about my reading and writing. Which is the normal thing it seems. But right now I'm in a weird spot where I have an outline, sorta, and a bunch of stuff I could write about. But I feel more inclined to wait and keep reading. I just don't know what to read.

I was trying to read Deleuze's Difference & Repetition but the first 40 pages felt so impossible and I'm not sure if I can really push my way through it or not. So difficult. It amazes me sometimes how difficult a book can be. And jesus this book is one of those books.

I started looking at a volume of essays called The Humanities And The Dynamics Of Inclusion Since World War II. Should be good to look at. It is pretty important that I understand the state of the humanities before I commit to graduate school and get all wrapped up in that world. Just started reading the intro. I'll finish the intro and maybe test the waters with 1 of the essays.

I was thinking about this blog. Sometimes it just seems so odd to me. Like what is going on here. Why am I doing this? What is all this writing about? Why am I putting it on the internet?

And it occurred to me that even though this blog is very public (in theory), I feel very disconnected from it. This blog is autonomous or something. It is autonomous from me. Separate from me. Maybe autonomous isn't the best word to use. I'm not sure what word to use.

But when I externalize things, when I make words and I put them on the internet, I don't always feels super connected to them. I wonder about them and their relationship to me and my life. Because sometimes I don't feel like a writer. I feel like a lot of other things. I might not be a writer (even though I have done quite a lot of writing). I'm not sure what I am.

But there is something weird about this blog, something weird about writing, something weird about my sense of identity.

Honestly, I feel that my identity is solidified a lot more in my relationships with other people than it is by my writing. My writing is definitely an important part of my identity. But I have a better sense of myself from my relationships with other people. That is the real me, I think. But the writing is me too.

One interesting thing is how my writing effects my relationships. Because it definitely does. In my more philosophical writing I am typically addressing some sort of issue that has implications for the (my) social world. I'm usually writing about things like small talk, expression, minds, empathy, emotions, language, and so on. All of that writing then effects how I engage with people in the real world.

So it is an interesting question about this blog, its autonomy, its relationship to my social life.

Who knows.

All I know is that things are going to be fine. But that I'm restless right now.

I'm restless for the journey ahead.

Which means that I'm uncomfortable with waiting.

Which is something I don't like.

Waiting is important. And I'd like to be better at it.

Who knows. I want to get to my writing at some point.

I'm working on problems that roughly fall into the category of philosophy of history.

Wonderful.

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