Thursday, August 31, 2023
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, "National Derangements"
In both Russia and Israel today, the social pact is fracturing under the weight of history and disagreements about basic principles and national identity. These conditions lend themselves to increasingly absurd and extreme rhetoric, some of which speaks to the people's deepest fears and preoccupations.LJUBLJANA – Whenever a country’s social contract unravels, conditions become ripe for rumors and absurdities to circulate. Even when these are outrageous and obviously nonsensical, they can give expression to a people’s deepest fears and prejudices.
Such is the case in Russia today, where Sergei Markov, a former adviser to President Vladimir Putin, has warned that Ukraine is creating “gay super-soldiers” to wage war against his country: “Military theorists and historians know which army in Greece was the strongest, remember? The Spartans. They were united by a homosexual brotherhood. They were all homos. These were the politics of their leadership. I think they are planning the same for Ukraine’s Armed Forces.”
Of course, this mixture of homophobia, fake history, and Marvel comic-inspired ideas of super-soldiers indicates that Markov is not interested in encouraging critical thinking and reasoned analysis. No matter: such idiotic statements apparently resonate with at least some important segments of Russian society.
The same derangement also increasingly applies to Russian historical memories of major national traumas and crimes. At a recent ceremony in Velikiye Luki, in Russia’s Pskov region, a priest known as “Father Anthony” doused holy water on a 26-foot statue of Stalin. Though “the Church suffered” during Stalin’s long reign of terror, he observed, Russians today should be grateful that they have so many “new Russian martyrs and confessors to whom we now pray and are helping us in our Motherland’s resurgence.”
Such perverse reasoning is just a step away from arguing that Jews should be grateful to Hitler for opening the way for the State of Israel. In fact, precisely that has already effectively happened. According to a 2019 investigation by Channel 13 news in Israel, future Israeli army officers at the state-funded Bnei David military prep school are taught, by rabbis, that:“The Holocaust was not about killing the Jews. Nonsense. And that it was systematic and ideological makes it more moral than random murder. Humanism, secular culture – that is the Holocaust. The real Holocaust is pluralism. The Nazi logic was internally consistent. Hitler said that a certain group in society is the cause of all the evil in the world and therefore it must be exterminated. … For years, God has been screaming that the Diaspora is over but Jews aren’t obeying. That is their disease that the Holocaust must cure. … Hitler was the most righteous. Of course he was right in every word he said. His ideology was correct. … [The Nazis’] only error was who was on which side.”The lesson does not end there. Students also learn that:“With the help of God, slavery will return. The non-Jews will want to be our slaves. These people around us have genetic problems. Ask an average Arab what he wants to be. He wants to be under occupation. … They don’t know how to run a country or anything. … Yes, we are racists. We believe in racism. Races have genetic characteristics. So we must consider how to help them.”To be sure, this extreme rhetoric is openly endorsed by only a tiny, fanatical religious minority. And yet, it hints at the underlying premise behind the current far-right government’s policies in the West Bank. To compare the situation in Israel and its occupied territories to Nazi Germany may appear a ridiculous exaggeration, and if a non-Jew makes this comparison, he is instantly dismissed as anti-Semitic; but if leading Jewish figures do so, they ought to be listened to. When a society has wrapped itself in layers of tendentious self-justification, it takes insiders to pull back the shroud.
Consider the case of Amiram Levin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command. Speaking recently to Israel’s public broadcasting station about the situation in the West Bank, he contends that “there hasn’t been a democracy there in 57 years, there is total apartheid. … the IDF, which is forced to exert sovereignty there, is rotting from the inside. It’s standing by, looking at the settler rioters and is beginning to be a partner to war crimes.”
When asked to elaborate, Levin invoked Nazi Germany: “It’s hard for us to say it, but it’s the truth. Walk around Hebron, look at the streets. Streets where Arabs are no longer allowed to go on, only Jews. That’s exactly what happened there, in that dark country.”
That a retired IDF general could come to such a conclusion attests not only to his extraordinary ethical stance, but also to just how bad things have gotten there. But as long as there are Israelis like Levin, there is hope, because it is only with the solidarity and support of people like him that the West Bank Palestinians have a chance.
In both Russia and Israel today, the social pact is fracturing under the weight of colonialism and fundamental disagreements about foundational principles. These conditions lend themselves to increasingly absurd and extreme forms of rationalization. But just because you can come up with a reason for doing something does not mean that you should do it. When societies fragment, resisting wrong reasons often requires more strength than following right reasons.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Sunday, August 27, 2023
Humorism, the humoral theory, or humoralism, was a system of medicine detailing supposed makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers.Blood - It was thought that the nutritional value of the blood was the source of energy for the body and the soul. Blood was believed to consist of small proportional amounts of the other three humors. This meant that taking a blood sample would allow for determination of the balance of the four humors in the body. It was associated with a sanguine nature (enthusiastic, active, and social).: 103–05 The seasonal association of blood is the spring because the natural characteristics found in individuals was associated with being hot and wet.
Humorism began to fall out of favor in the 17th century and it was definitively disproved in the 1850s with the advent of germ theory, which was able to show that many diseases previously thought to be humoral were in fact caused by microbes.
Humors were believed to be produced via digestion as the final products of hepatic digestion. Digestion is a continuous process taking place in every animal, and it can be divided into four sequential stages. The gastric digestion stage, the hepatic digestion stage, the vascular digestion stage, and the tissue digestion stage. Each stage digests food until it becomes suitable for use by the body. In gastric digestion, food is made into chylous, which is suitable for the liver to absorb and carry on digestion. Chylous is changed into chymous in the hepatic digestion stage. Chymous is composed of the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These four humors then circulate in the blood vessels. In the last stage of digestion, tissue digestion, food becomes similar to the organ tissue for which it is destined.
If anything goes wrong leading up to the production of humors, there will be an imbalance leading to disease. Proper organ functioning is necessary in the production of good humor. The stomach and liver also have to function normally for proper digestion. If there are any abnormalities in gastric digestion, the liver, blood vessels, and tissues cannot be provided with the raw chylous, which can cause abnormal humor and blood composition. A healthy functioning liver is not capable of converting abnormal chylous into normal chylous and normal humors.
Humors are the end product of gastric digestion, but they are not the end product of the digestion cycle, so an abnormal humor produced by hepatic digestion will affect other digestive organs.
Yellow bile was associated with a choleric nature (ambitious, decisive, aggressive, and short-tempered). It was thought to be fluid found within the gallbladder, or in excretions such as vomit and feces. The associated qualities for yellow bile are hot and dry with the natural association of summer and fire. It was believed that an excess of this humor in an individual would result in emotional irregularities such as increased anger or behaving irrationally.
Black bile was associated with a melancholy nature, the word "melancholy" itself deriving from the Greek for "black bile", μέλαινα χολή (melaina kholé). Depression was attributed to excess or unnatural black bile secreted by the spleen. Cancer was also attributed to an excess of black bile concentrated in a specific area. The seasonal association of black bile was to autumn as the cold and dry characteristics of the season reflect the nature of man.
Phlegm was associated with a phlegmatic nature, thought to be associated with reserved behavior. The phlegm of humorism is far from phlegm as it is defined today. Phlegm was used as a general term to describe white or colorless secretions such as pus, mucus, saliva, sweat, or semen. Phlegm was also associated with the brain, possibly due to the color and consistency of brain tissue. The French physiologist and Nobel laureate Charles Richet, when describing humorism's "phlegm or pituitary secretion" in 1910, asked rhetorically, "this strange liquid, which is the cause of tumours, of chlorosis, of rheumatism, and cacochymia – where is it? Who will ever see it? Who has ever ever seen it? What can we say of this fanciful classification of humors into four groups, of which two are absolutely imaginary?" The seasonal association of phlegm is winter due to the natural properties of being cold and wet.
Why Atheism isn't the Answer...
Performatism Reprised - The advantages of Adding an Aesthetic Frame to an Ontological Frame and then Finding Beauty by Transcending it
Saturday, August 26, 2023
Stefan Steinberg, "Slavoj Žižek’s slavish support of NATO"
In a series of articles written over the course of the past year, the Slovenian “pop” philosopher, cynic and Stalin worshipper, Slavoj Žižek, has emerged as one of the most virulent advocates of the US and NATO’s proxy war against Russia.
In an article for Der Spiegel entitled The Dark Side of Neutrality (Feb 17, 2023), Žižek denounced the principled stance taken against the NATO war by Roger Waters who stated in a speech to the United Nations Security Council: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked, so I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms.... Not one more Ukrainian or Russian life is to be spent, not one, they are all precious in our eyes. So the time has come to speak truth to power.”
This is all too much for Žižek who, in an article in Die Welt (June 20), even went so far as to call for nuclear weapons for Ukraine. He wrote: “One should not forget that Ukraine gave up all nuclear weapons to Russia when the Soviet Union disintegrated, with the promise that its borders would be recognised by Russia - would it not now have the right to get nuclear weapons (again)? Why is this obvious solution dismissed with horror even by those paying lip service to defending Ukraine?'.
Now, just a week ago, in an article in Britain’s right wing New Statesman magazine (14.08.2023) titled “Ukraine must go to war with itself” Žižek openly articulates his fears that the much heralded, spring military offensive by Ukraine is failing badly. According to Žižek, European powers, including what he describes as the European left, must redouble their efforts to prevent a shattering defeat for the Ukrainian forces. As is usually the case with his work, Žižek’s article is a combination of distortions, dissimulations, non-sequiturs and lies.
Žižek complains that “Those of us who stand firmly behind Ukraine worry about the fatigue of the West: as the war drags on, will the countries which support Ukraine gradually tire of the permanent emergency state and the material sacrifices demanded of them?”
The problem, according to Žižek, is an unholy alliance of the “extreme right and extreme left” (which he never properly identifies) espousing propaganda arguing in favour of: “abstract pacifism (we need peace, the suffering has to stop at any cost); a “balanced” view of the war (NATO’s eastward expansion provoked Russia and forced it to counterattack); and the need to protect our own national welfare (why should we give billions to Ukraine, a country run by corrupt oligarchs, when we have deep economic and problems of our own).”
Even more serious than the war weariness of the west, Žižek complains, is growing fatigue on the part of the Ukrainian population, which has paid the highest price in the war. Having been bombarded with propaganda by NATO and western politicians that Ukraine is conducting the good fight against corruption and for democracy, the Ukrainian working class observes on a daily basis how corruption continues to flourish while the country’s wealthy elite and their families flee abroad to protect their fortunes and avoid military service.
To counteract these problems and “avoid collapse in the war” Žižek calls for the building of “a truly united front against the common enemy”. Žižek demands that “leftists” and also female recruits who have encountered discrimination as members of the Ukrainian military fully subordinate themselves to the nationalist and fascist elements leading the army. Appealing directly to identity politics he declares that “only a wide popular front in which there is a place for everyone – from LGBT+ individuals to the leftists who oppose the Russian aggression – can save Ukraine.”
Sitting in the comfort of his academic lodgings in London and his flat in Lujblianja, Žižek is quite content to justify the slaughter of tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian recruits in a war which was incontestably provoked by the US and NATO in a land which, prior to the war, stood high in the world list of most corrupt countries and remains wracked by corruption. At the same time Žižek turns a blind eye to the various parties and groupings in Ukraine which have valiantly opposed the war and have been subsequently ruthlessly censured and repressed by the Zelensky government.
Acknowledging in his latest article that his own political trajectory is coming under increasing scrutiny, Žižek lies about his past in Slovenia, claiming that he was a victim of the “the nationalist right” which had “always castigated secular left opponents of the communist regime, as suspect, secret agents of the old communists.”
Far from being a “secular left opponent of the communist regime” Žižek quit the Slovenian Communist Party in 1988 and joined the pro-capitalist, secessionist Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) prior to the collapse of the Stalinist block. In 1990 Žižek ran as LDS candidate for the post of President of Slovenia, only losing out narrowly to another candidate. The LDS led coalition governments from 1992 to 2004 and were instrumental in implementing capitalist shock therapy economic policies in Slovenia following its secession from Yugoslavia. Žižek continued to support the party throughout this period as he developed his relations with Stalinist and pseudo-left forces in Paris.
Žižek ends his article with the ludicrous claim that NATO’s war in Ukraine can be compared to the French Revolution and European partisans opposing fascism in the Second World War. Žižek turns history on its head. Not least because the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, is an acolyte of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera.
His latest screed for the Statesman confirms Žižek’s role as an opportunist shill for NATO. Offering his services to the Zelenskiy government, Žižek urges his dwindling band of supporters to take up arms for a final battle which can only end in the deaths of many more thousands.
Žižek’s political lurch to the right and emergence as a slavish supporter of NATO’s proxy war against Russia is a direct response to the developing mass mobilisations of the working class world-wide. His response in the past to clashes between working-class youth and the forces of the state has always been to line up with the state. Against a background of intensifying conflict across the globe, past experience indicates that Žižek’s passage into right-wing and extreme right politics will only accelerate in the coming period.
Friday, August 25, 2023
Living Vicariously in our Second-Order Hyper-Normalized Society: On Re-Framing the Message via Attacks on the Messenger
Slavoj Žižek, "Oliver Anthony does not have the answers: Right-wing protest songs only benefit the wealthy and powerful."
Everybody who pretends to be on the left today needs to analyse Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond”. Over the course of two days, this working-class lament exploded into “the protest song of our generation”, garnering tens of millions of viewers and listeners. The word authentic occurs in positive reactions to the song: there are no special effects, it is just the voice and guitar of a simple worker recorded on a real camera. Here is the direct raw voice of those Americans ignored by the mainstream media: poor working men, barely surviving, with no clear prospect for a better life. Here are (most of) the lyrics:I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all dayOvertime hours for bullshit paySo I can sit out here and waste my life awayDrag back home and drown my troubles awayIt’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten toFor people like me and people like youWish I could just wake up and it not be trueBut it is, oh, it isLivin’ in the new world, with an old soulThese rich men north of RichmondLord knows they all just wanna have total controlWanna know what you think, wanna know what you doAnd they don’t think you know, but I know that you do‘Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end‘Cause of rich men north of RichmondI wish politicians would look out for minersAnd not just minors on an island somewhereLord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eatAnd the obese milkin’ welfareWell, God, if you’re five foot three and you’re 300 poundsTaxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge roundsYoung men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them downThere is an obvious truth in Anthony’s words. Yes, millions work while the rich exploit them; yes, big corporations and government agencies exert a frightening power of control over us. But the details of the song beneath this truth are disturbing – and details matter here. Why “north of Richmond”? Because Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War – a clear hint at where Anthony’s political sympathies lie.
And why fudge rounds? This term has a double meaning: (1) fudgy, round chocolate cookies, sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream; (2) when engaged in anal sex, a female loses control of her bowels, leaving a circular imprint around the base of the male’s genitalia – again, a hint at a link between the new rich and sexual perversions. (Elsewhere, with “minors on an island somewhere”, Anthony makes a passing reference to Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious island.) Who are the “obese” men living comfortably by way of the overtaxing of ordinary working people? They are at the same time the new corporate elites controlling us and the lazy (racial, sexual) minorities getting fat from generous handouts provided by the welfare state.
One should locate this in a series of rightist lower-class protests this summer. Consider The Sound of Freedom (Alejandro Monteverde, 2023), a movie based on a true story of a former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers in Latin America. Liberal media dismissed this surprise low-budget hit (at the US box office it has earned more than the new Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible movies) due to the proximity of its star, Jim Caviezel, to QAnon conspiracy theories. It is also weird that, in the film, some children are sold as sex slaves to the Farc movement leaders in Colombia – sex slavery is thus portrayed as a feature which unites the corporate elite of Hollywood and the extreme revolutionary left.
But child trafficking and sex slavery are horrible things, and it is all too easy to leave them to the new populist right, while the Hollywood mainstream is occupied by woke projects like the new Disney remake of Snow White in which Snow White is not white, dwarfs are not dwarfs but “diverse” people, and the ending will seemingly not be the old one (with the prince awakening Snow White with a kiss) but the empowerment of Snow White, who will become a new legitimate ruler. The sad thing about The Sound of Freedom is that we have a modest movie produced outside of the big Hollywood machine which deals with sex crimes against children from poor Latino families and is a surprising box office hit, but was made by right-wingers.
The new wave of rightist working-class protests and the “protect-the-minorities” corporate liberalism are not simply opposites: what they share is that they both avoid confronting the basic social antagonisms that characterise our era. While the rightist working-class protests do address actual problems that haunt many ordinary workers, they simultaneously portray the enemy as the “rich”, the corporate and state elites, and the “lazy” recipients of welfare. The struggle against racism and sexism is thus dismissed as the strategy of the elites to control workers and the productive capital. We get here the old fascist idea of uniting workers and productive capital against the parasitic extremes of the elites and welfare-state recipients. These protests are a reaction to what is false in today’s liberal left that deftly manipulates the fight against sexism and racism and for the rights of minorities in order to avoid confronting the perverted logic of global capitalism.
A protest may be authentic, but authenticity is not in itself a sign of truth: even the most brutal forms of racism and sexism can be experienced as an authentic feeling. At the start of August 2023 my own country – Slovenia – was for a brief moment in global news: it was hit by floods and landslides, with thousands of homes destroyed and whole towns cut off. The reaction was an unexpected show of solidarity: Slovenes offered too much help and too many volunteers, so that all of it couldn’t be used. Even embattled Ukraine sent help. Although this show of solidarity was sincere, it was small compared to what will be needed in the catastrophes that await us. For the large majority in Slovenia life went on as normal, and the display of solidarity allowed us to feel good without changing our way of life. For a moment, we acted as if the pursuit of comfortable daily life is not all, and our moderate sacrifices made us feel that life gained meaning. The display of solidarity was thus the expression of a desperate wish not to confront the depth of our crisis.
Back to Anthony’s song, the first simple counter-question of the left to its words should be: “OK, poor working people are exploited, so why doesn’t the song mention the standard solution – form a union?” Old working-class protest songs, from “Joe Hill”, to Pete Seeger’s “Solidarity Forever”, to Billy Bragg’s “There Is Power in a Union” all point in this direction. As for American patriotism, how far is Anthony’s song from the great Leftist working class protest song, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”! Here are its first lines: “Born down in a dead man’s town / The first kick I took was when I hit the ground / You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much / Till you spent half your life just covering up” – a similar experience of being downtrodden, but from a totally different political background.
Don’t be surprised if Anthony’s song is praised by billionaires from Elon Musk to Donald Trump – the rich man from Mar-a-Lago – who, by means of complex legal tricks, for years avoided paying taxes. Warren Buffett himself, one of the richest men in the world, was shocked to discover that he was paying less taxes than his secretary. No wonder that, when President Obama was accused of irresponsibly introducing “class warfare” into political life, Buffett snapped back: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
What we hear in Anthony’s song is the ultimate triumph of the rich in the class warfare: even a downtrodden proletarian struggling for social justice takes their side.
Monday, August 21, 2023
On August 21, 2023, we posted a video on the song "Rich Men North of Richmond." Thanks to input from critical viewers, we understand that there is increasing evidence that the song may indeed have been a successful Edward-Bernays-style fabrication made with the intent of political manipulation. If this is the case, our interpretation was based on false premises. Therefore we decided to take the video offline.
Interview with South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han. The following excerpt is part of an interview conducted by Zeit magazine in its online version, published in May 2014.
TIME: There are beautiful things! You spend a lot of time talking bad about the world.
He: Maybe. In fact, I drive my students crazy because I tell them about all these topics in my lecture. When I said in the penultimate session that we would think about solutions today, some people clapped. Finally! He is now redeeming us from despair!
TIME: Excellent. We also wanted to talk to you about solutions.
He: I wanted to think of solutions, but then I just pointed out more problems.
TIME: Good. What problems are there?
He: Today there is no language, there is silence and impotence. Language is being taken away from language today. On the one hand there is a huge noise, a noise of communication, on the other hand an eerie silence. And this mutism differs from silence. Silence is very eloquent. Silence has a language. Silence is also eloquent. Silence can also be language. But noise and silence are without language. There is only wordless and noisy communication, that is a problem. Today there is not even knowledge, only information. Knowledge is very different from information. Knowledge and truth sound very old-fashioned today. Knowledge also has a completely different temporal structure. It stretches between the past and the future. And the temporality of the information is the present, the present time. Knowledge is also based on experience. A teacher has knowledge. Today we live in terror of dilettantism.
TIME: How do you judge what science is doing? Don’t you create knowledge?
He: Today’s scientists do not reflect on the social context of knowledge. You are doing positive research. All knowledge takes place in a relationship of domination. A relationship of domination, a new device generates new knowledge, a new discourse. Knowledge is always embedded in a power structure. One can simply engage in positive inquiry without realizing that one is under the spell of that power and without reflecting on the contextuality of knowledge. This reflection on contextuality does not occur today. Philosophy also becomes a positive science. She does not relate to society, only to herself, so she becomes socially blind.
TIME: Do you relate that to the entire scientific community?
He: More or less. A science of Google takes place today, without critical reflection on the activity itself. The humanities should think critically about their own work, but that’s not happening. Today, for example, many conduct research on emotions. I would like to ask a scientist involved in this research: Why are you doing what you are doing? They don’t think about their own work.
TIME: What do you suggest?
He: What is the social relevance of the humanities? That’s what it’s all about. You have to be clear about the social background of your own research, because all knowledge is tied to the power structure of a system. Why is emotion research carried out with such intensity today? Perhaps because emotions are a productive force today. Emotions are used as a means of control. Influencing emotions controls and manipulates human behavior at a subconscious level.
TIME: Now you sound like a conspiracy theorist. Can you create a better system with more intelligence?
He: Intelligence is intel-legere, an intermediate reading, a distinction. Intelligence is a discrimination activity within a system. Intelligence cannot develop a new system, a new language. The mind is very different from intelligence. I don’t think a very smart computer can duplicate the human mind. You can design a fully intelligent machine, but the machine will never invent a new language, something completely different, I don’t think so. A machine has no mind. No machine can produce more than it has absorbed. This is precisely the miracle of life, that it can produce more than it took, and produce something very different from what it took. This is life. life is spirit. In this it differs from the machine. But this life is threatened where everything becomes a machine, where everything is governed by algorithms. The immortal, mechanical human imagined by posthumanists like Ray Kurzweil will no longer be human. Maybe one day we can gain immortality with the help of technology, but we will lose our lives because of it. We will achieve immortality at the cost of life.
Sunday, August 20, 2023
In 1090 CE, Hassan-i Sabbah, the leader of the Assassins, a sect of Nizari Ismailis in Iran, chose the Alamut region as his headquarters to campaign, preach and convert new followers. This proved to be a turning point for the destiny of Alamut Valley. The result of over two centuries of Ismailite stronghold, the region witnessed numerous castles throughout, of which at least 20 "castles" dating back to this era have been identified. The most magnificent castle in the Alamut Valley is the Alamut Castle, which is built on top of a high rock reaching 2163 m above sea level near the Gazor Khan Village. The rock is 200 m high and covers an area of 20 hectares (49 acres); with its steep slope and deep and dangerous ravine, the rock is practically inaccessible and forms a part of the fort’s structure. Currently, only ruins of the fort and some towers are apparent, and it is only through archaeological excavation that the main portions can be discovered.
Saturday, August 19, 2023
It is not we who use the smartphone; the smartphone uses us. The real actor is the smartphone. We are at the mercy of this digital informant, beneath the surface of which various actors steer and distract us.
The emancipatory aspects of the smartphone are not all there is to it. There is no fundamental difference between being reachable at all times and being enslaved. The smartphone is a mobile labour camp in which we voluntarily intern ourselves. The smartphone is also a pornophone: we voluntarily expose ourselves. The smartphone functions like a mobile confessional box. It is the continuation of the “sacral rule of the confessional box” on another form.
Every form of rule has its own devotional objects. The theologian Ernst Troeltsch speaks of “devotional objects that fascinate the imagination of the people.” These objects stabilize rule by making it habitual and anchoring it in the body. In German, devot also means submissive. Smartphones have established themselves as the devotional objects of the neoliberal regime. As apparatuses that serve the purpose of submission, they resemble the rosary, which is just as mobile and handy. The like is the digital amen. By clicking on the like button, we submit ourselves to the context of rule.
Platforms like Facebook or Google are our new feudal lords. We tirelessly work their land and produce the valuable data that they exploit. We feel free, although we are completely exploited and controlled. In a system that exploits freedom, there is no resistance. Once it coincides with freedom, rule becomes total….
The communist system that represses freedom differs fundamentally from the neoliberal surveillance capitalism that exploits freedom. We are too intoxicated by our digital drugs, by communication, to raise the voice of resistance and cry “No more!”…
The neoliberal regime is itself smart. Smart power does not operate through orders or prohibitions. It does not make us docile; it makes us dependent and addicted. Instead of breaking our wills, it serves our needs. It wants to be liked. It is permissive rather than repressive. It does not condemn us to silence. Rather, we are constantly asked to share our opinions, preferences, needs and desires – even to tell the stories of our lives. Smart power conceals its intention to rule by coming across as friendly, smart. The subject is not even aware of its submission. It believes that it is free. Capitalism culminates in the capitalism of the like. Because it is permissive, it need not fear resistance or revolution.
Meanwhile, is the "medium" censoring THIS post below this?:from Reddit:
Oliver Anthony - A prediction for possible future Zizek reference regarding Marxist alienation.Slavoj Zizek, "The authentic voice of protest – and its dark truth" (Google Translate)So there's this song called "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony, regular working class dude from Virginia and it has, not surprisingly, become popular among conservatives. What people like is the text, the song itself is rather simple in terms of melody and harmony. The text focuses on how he is working hard for bad pay and how the rich elite is keeping him down. Apart from some mentions of people on welfare and high taxes this song is marxist in its core. If this was sung on a street corner in a major European city in the 19th century it would be among socialist, workers party circles etc, where it would be popular. There's this sense of alienation of the value which is being produced by him as a worker. Why I connect this to Zizek is mainly because he has on numerous occasions expressed how the failure of the left today is in the "failing" of people like Oliver Anthony. I think that if Zizek somehow learned of this latest hype he would find it ironic how Marxist the song and the reactions to the song is. It is worth mentioning that the singer has not declared himself to any particular political leaning but instead claimed to be a centrist.Without collapsing into tribalism, what do you honestly think about the way the reactions to this song say about the ignorance of the conservative movement in their, sometimes, overtly Marxist rhetoric?
Oliver Anthony's viral country song about the exploitation of the little man captivates with its immediacy and authenticity: a man, his guitar, his rage. However, Anthony's memorable lines conceal a dilemma that any resistance faces today. (rest behind paywall)
Friday, August 18, 2023
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Slavoj Zizek, "Manipur is not only in India"
To a Western European with a vague knowledge of Italian, “Manipur” automatically associates with “mani pulite” (pure hands), the big anti-corruption campaign in the early 1990s that changed the whole Italian political scene and ended with the rise of Berlusconi to power.
In Manipur, a small Indian state bordering on Myanmar, ethnic violence is now getting close to a civil war: its two largest groups, the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki, battle over land and influence. Meitei are Hindu, politically affiliated with the ruling Hindu-nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) which also runs the state of Manipur, while Kuki are tribal Christians who live in forests. There is violence on both sides, but the main culprits are Meitei who want to push the Kuki out. What attracted the attention of the world is a shocking video of an attack on May 4, 2023 when two Kuki women were paraded naked by Meitei men and then gang raped shortly after their village was razed – a horrifying case of terror against women as a political instrument (the video was rendered public by one of the perpetrators themselves). At this point the Indian President Narendra Modi was finally forced to react: he proclaimed the event a “shame on India.” However, his condemnation came late and was deeply hypocritical – why?
The Manipur local government is more or less openly on the side of Meitei, while the federal government is officially neutral but silently no less on the side of Meitei. The reasons for this partiality are not only ethnic (an expression of the BJP Hindu nationalism) but also economic: the forests inhabited by Kuki are rich with minerals, and the government wants to drive the Kuki out to exploit the area more efficiently. The pressure on Kuki is thus, as expected, justified as a strategy of “progress” and “modernization” resisted by the tribal Kuki.
This brings us to “pure hands”: while the federal state pretends to act as a neutral agent just safeguarding law and order, its hands are far from pure since what it promotes as “law and order” clearly privileges the strong side in the conflict, providing it with the aura of legality. There is nothing new in such a procedure since it characterizes the entire history of “human rights”: again and again, this notion was shown to privilege the rights of a particular sex, race, religion, or social status. But what is going on in Manipur is that even the façade of a neutral state power crumbles: those in power openly support those who are (according to its own laws) illegal aggressors.
Is something similar not happening in Israel? As long as the traditional secular Zionist settler-colonial ideology predominated, the state (not so) discreetly privileged its Jewish citizens over Palestinians; however, it put great efforts to sustain the appearance of a neutral rule of law. From time to time, it condemned Zionist extremists for their crimes against Palestinians, limited the illegal new settlements on the West Bank, etc. The main agency playing this role was the Supreme Court. No wonder the Netanyahu government that took over in 2022 pushed through a judicial reform which deprives the Supreme Court of its autonomy. The large protests against judicial reform are the last cry of the secular Zionism; however, insofar as the protesters are not ready to endorse solidarity with Palestinians, their protest will remain limited to saving the appearances.
With the new Netanyahu government, the anti-Palestinian violence (the pogrom in Huwara, the attacks on the Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa, etc.) is no longer even formally condemned by the state. The fate of Itamar Ben-Gvir is the clearest indicator of this shift. Before entering politics, Ben-Gvir was known to have in his living room a portrait of Israeli-American terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred twenty-nine Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounded 125 others in Hebron, in what became known as the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre. He entered politics by joining the youth movement of the Kach and Kahane Chai party, which was designated as a terrorist organization and outlawed by the Israeli government itself. When he came of age for conscription into the Israel Defense Forces at 18, he was barred from service due to his extreme-right political background. And such a person condemned by Israel itself as a racist and terrorist is now the Minister for National Security who should safeguard the rule of law…
The State of Israel, which likes to present itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, now de facto morphed into a “halachic theocratic state (the equivalent to Shari’a law).” This shift is not just a secondary degeneration of the original vision, since it indicates a fatal flaw in the original vision itself. (A further twist in this story is that most of today’s messianic Zionists are not even really religious: they remain secularists brutally and cynically using religion as an instrument in the struggle for power.) In Lacanian terms, obscene violence is the surplus-enjoyment which we gain as a reward for our subordination to an ideological edifice, for the sacrifices and renunciations this edifice demands from us. In today’s Israel (as in Manipur) this surplus-enjoyment no longer dwells in the obscene underground, it is openly assumed:“the surplus-enjoyment (killing Palestinians, burning their homes, evicting them from their homes, confiscating their lands, building settlements, destroying their olive trees, Judaizing Al-Aqsa, etc.) becomes explicitly articulated. While these forms of surplus enjoyment were previously viewed as an exception in official Zionist discourse, they are now considered as the norm.”By designating the Israeli Jews as somehow “degenerate,” did we not regressed here the worst kind of anti-Semitism? Not at all: the Jews who support the ongoing trend effectively are degenerate in exactly the same sense as we all are. By acting as they do on the West Bank, they lose any superior status and become just one among the fundamentalist nation-states. Another name for this degeneracy is ideology: a symbolic edifice sustained by obscene surplus-enjoyment. But why use this provocative term? A reference to the use of the term “degeneracy” in quantum mechanics may be of some help: in quantum mechanics, “degeneracy” refers to the fact that “two or more stationary states of the same quantum-mechanical system may have the same energy even though their wave functions are not the same. In this case the common energy level of the stationary states is degenerate.”
Now, “imagine you’re shown two identical objects and then asked to close your eyes. When you open your eyes, you see the same two objects in the same position. How can you determine if they have been swapped back and forth? Intuition and the laws of quantum mechanics agree: If the objects are truly identical, there is no way to tell. But for a special type of anyons (particles that occur in two-dimensional space having characteristics of both fermions and bosons), quantum mechanics allows for something quite different. Anyons are indistinguishable from one another, but some (non-Abelian) anyons have a special property that causes observable differences in the shared quantum state under exchange, making it possible to tell when they have been exchanged, despite being fully indistinguishable from one another.” (“Abelian” refers to Niels Abel, a Norwegian mathematician from the early 19th century.)
It is easy to see how the non-Abelian anyons open a new path for quantum computation: when we swap particles around one another like strings are swapped around one another to create braids, the virtual braid that forms the quantum background of two particles can contain much more information than just two particles which are indistinguishable in their actual presence. But what matters to us here is the fact that the obscene underground of ideology is “degenerated” in a similar way: procedures that are in themselves indistinguishable (ethnic violence, torture, rapes, denial of the human dignity of the “enemy,” etc.) are accompanied by a braid of different symbolic narratives. The task of the analysis is thus to recognize the same “energy” – libido, libidinal investment – in Muslim fundamentalism, Zionism, Hinduism, Christian fundamentalism, while obvious differences in their narratives should not blind us for this sameness.
In our daily use of language, this obscene level manifests itself in what Lacan called lalangue (“language”), language in all its non-intended ambiguities and wordplays. It may appear that lalangue opens up the space in which we can resist the hegemonic discourse of power. In today’s China, the Grass Mud Horse or Cǎonímǎ is an internet meme based on a pun: it is a play on the Mandarin words cào nǐ mā, literally “fuck your mother.” Caonima is an exemplary case of the resistance discourse of Chinese internet users, a mascot of netizens in China fighting for free expression, inspiring poetry, photos and videos, artwork, lines of clothing, and more. As such, it is part of a broader Chinese internet culture of spoofing, mockery, punning, and parody known as e’gao, which includes video mash-ups and other types of bricolage.
From our own culture, suffice it to mention the Häagen-Dazs brand of ice-creams – how did this name emerge? Reuben Mattus, a Polish Jew who emigrated to the US and founded the Häagen-Dazs ice-cream company in 1959, engaged“in a quest for a brand name that he claimed was Danish-sounding; however, the company’s pronunciation of the name ignores the letters ‘ä’ and ‘z’ and letters like ‘ä’ or digraphs like ‘zs’ do not exist in Danish. According to Mattus, it was a tribute to Denmark‘s exemplary treatment of its Jews during the Second World War, and included an outline map of Denmark on early labels. Mattus felt that Denmark was also known for its dairy products and had a positive image in the United States. His daughter Doris Hurley reported that her father sat at the kitchen table for hours saying nonsensical words until he came up with a combination he liked.”Is “Häagen-Dazs” not lalangue at its purest? The name condenses a reference to alleged historical facts (Denmark’s treatment of the Jews, Denmark as a country known for its dairy products), imagined associations which are false at the level of facts (letters like ‘ä’ or digraphs like ‘zs’ do not exist in Danish although they “sound” Danish… for us, not for the Danes themselves, of course), up to the enjoyment in pure vocal nonsense. Such phenomena are far from being limited to ordinary language: many philosophical or scientific terms are formed in a similar way, chosen because of their pleasantly-obscene sound or their improper associations. Just think about quantum mechanics: “degeneracy” as a quantum concept, anyons, quarks (which also designated a healthy soft cheese), up to the Big Bang itself…
Such an infection of scientific concepts with the “degenerate” obscenities of lalangue in no way relativizes science into a historical phenomenon: true universal science easily survives its transposition from one to another ordinary language, which affects its discourse with different kind of obscenities. What this case clearly demonstrates is that lalangue should not be reduced to some kind of subversive poetic playfulness which liberates the speakers from the confines of the hegemonic ideology. Lalangue also (and maybe even predominantly) serves as an instrument of violent humiliation and oppression. A typical act of racists is to designate its enemies with an apparently “neutral” term whose obscene echoes deliver a clear racist message – and, when attention is drawn to it, the perpetrator claims that his hands are pure since he used the term in its neutral sense… A true act of liberation resides in our ability to extract a pure universal concept from its obscene contaminations. Try to formulate a racist/sexist notion in its pure logical structure, and its absurdity immediately becomes clear.
Even when a country fights for its survival and is engaged in heroic self-defense, the Cause of freedom is as a rule contaminated by some kind of obscene racist and sexist background which spoils the purity of its struggle. Those of us who stand firmly behind Ukraine are often worried about the fatigue of the West: as the war now drags into its second year, will not the countries that support Ukraine gradually get fed up with the permanent emergency state and the material sacrifices demanded of them? However, much more understandable is the war fatigue of the Ukrainians themselves: how long will they be able to go on fighting? It is already close to a miracle that they persisted for a year and a half, with no quick ending in sight. What Ukrainians can and should do is clear: the main medicine against war fatigue is justice in Ukraine: no privileges for the oligarchs. Is there anything more demoralizing thatn to see ordinary Ukrainians fight while many of the rich emigrated and organized for their sons to be exempted from military service?
A good sign pointing in this direction was that, on July 25, 2023, Zelensky“has warned government officials and lawmakers that ‘personal enrichment’ and ‘betrayal’ will not be tolerated, after the arrest of a military recruitment chief on embezzlement charges and an MP accused of collaborating with Russia. His comments came after the arrest of Yevhen Borysov, head of the military recruitment office in Odesa, by Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and Prosecutor General’s Office. The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption said he had illegally acquired more than $5mn through elaborate business schemes.”It was discovered that, after the beginning of the war, Borysov discreetly bought a series of luxury properties in France and Spain… However, while the need for the fight against corruption is obvious, another point is no less important. To avoid collapse in the ongoing war, a truly united front against the common enemy is needed. Lately, though, signs are multiplying of a very worrying phenomenon. Many Leftists and non-nationalist liberals in Ukraine are ready to fight against Russia – they volunteered and are now on the frontline. (One of them who likes my work sent me the photo of his machine gun resting on two Ukrainian translations of my work, which he reads in the pause between battles – needless to say this photo made me quite proud.) However, since they resist aggressive conservative nationalism with its crazy extremist measures (just recall the prohibition to perform publicly the works of all Russian composers), they are as a rule sidelined by the authorities and often even suspected of Russian sympathies, as if Putin, the hero of the European and US Right, somehow stands for Socialism…
Suffice it to mention the great Ukrainian documentary film-maker Sergei Loznitsa, the internationally-acclaimed author of films like Maidan and Donbass. Loznitsa now lives in Lithuania and cannot return to Ukraine: he learned that, since he is not yet 60 years old (the limit age for conscription), his passport will be confiscated if he returns home. Other internationally-known artists can travel abroad freely, so we are dealing here with a clear case of revenge punishment by conservative cultural bureaucracy. I know this disgusting strategy from my own past: in Slovenia also, Nationalist Rightists always castigated secular Leftist opponents of the Communist regime as suspicious masked agents of the old Communists. In the seventies, I was never allowed to teach and was for years unemployed, while I am now regularly attacked as a “man of the old regime”…
In Ukraine, many women also joined the armed forces and fight on the front – some of them are well-known excellent snipers. Unfortunately, many of them now “express anger at stigma and treatment by male colleagues and say complaints are being ignored”: they have to fight on two fronts, against the Russian enemy and against harassment from their own masculine colleagues. One should generalize this situation: Ukraine itself is fighting on two fronts: against Russian aggression and for what Ukraine will be after the war. If (hopefully) Ukraine survives, will it be a nationalist fundamentalist country like Poland and Hungary with the Russian minority treated like Kukis in Manipur? Things are being decided NOW: only a wide popular front in which there is a place for everyone who opposes the Russian aggression can save Ukraine.
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Friday, August 11, 2023
Byung-Chul Han, "The Ontology of Pain" (Translated by Daniel Steuer)
Pain gives of its healing power where we least expect it.
SINGABLE REMNANT – the outline- Paul Celan*
of him, who through
the sicklescript broke through unvoiced,
apart, at the snowplace.
In a marginal note to Jünger’s On Pain, Heidegger writes: ‘A treatise “On Pain” which never and nowhere treats of pain itself; does not ask after its essence; never confronts the questionability of the question because it cannot at all be affected by the secret of pain, as a consequence of its decisively reifying attitude towards pain.’1 Jünger takes it for granted that everyone knows what pain is. He is interested above all in our relation to pain: ‘Pain is one of the keys to unlock man’s innermost being as well as the world. Whenever one approaches the points where man proves himself to be equal or superior to pain, one gains access to the sources of his power and the secret hidden behind his dominion. Tell me your relation to pain, and I will tell you who you are!’2 On this, Heidegger remarks: ‘Tell me your relation to being, if you even have an inkling of it, and I will tell you how, and whether, you will “concern” yourself with “pain”, or whether you will be able to pursue it in your thinking.’3
Heidegger’s seemingly ironic reply to Jünger possesses a philosophical core. Heidegger wants to approach the question of pain from the side of being. Only through being can we access the ‘essence’, the ‘secret’, of pain. Heidegger would even say: being is pain. By this, however, he would not mean that human existence is particularly painful. Rather, Heidegger has in mind an ontology of pain. He wants to get to the ‘essence’ of pain by way of being: ‘Immeasurable suffering creeps and rages over the earth. The flood of suffering rises ever higher. But the essence of pain is concealed. . . . Everywhere we are assailed by innumerable and measureless suffering. We, however, are unpained, not brought into the ownership of the essence of pain.’4
Heidegger’s thinking takes as its point of departure the ontological difference between being and beings. Beings owe their manifestness, their comprehensibility, to being. The disclosure of being is necessary for a comprehending comportment towards beings. Before directing my attention at an object, I already find myself in a pre-reflexively disclosed world. Heidegger points out that moods [Stimmungen] possess a world-disclosing power. The world as pre-reflexively disclosed by a mood precedes intentionality, the aiming at an object: ‘The mood has already disclosed, in every case, Being-in-the-world as a whole, and makes it possible first of all to direct oneself towards something.’5 This interest in phenomena such as ‘moods’ reveals that Heidegger’s thinking is concerned with what is non-available . We cannot avail ourselves of the prereflexively disclosed world. We are thrown into it; we are at its mercy and de-termined [be-stimmt] by it.* A mood, after all, is something that comes over us, something we cannot appropriate.
In the later Heidegger, being takes on a mystical meaning as the ‘source’ of beings.6 Being does not create beings, but it lets each become what it is. Humans also owe their existence to being: ‘Humans are at-tuned [gestimmt] to what de-termines [be-stimmt] their essence. In this de-termining, humans are touched and called forth by a voice [Stimme] that peals all the more purely the more it silently reverberates through what speaks.’7 That silent voice which de-termines and suf-fuses [durchstimmt] human Dasein evades any form of availability. It comes from somewhere else, from what is altogether other. Thinking is the pain, the passion for the secret that ‘withdraws, halts in its withdrawal’.8
Heidegger considers language to be a gift. Human beings speak [sprechen] by according with it [ihr entsprechen]. The ontological difference between being and beings also determines language: ‘An “is” arises where the word breaks up. To break up here means that the sounding word returns into soundlessness, back to whence it was granted: into the ringing of stillness. . . .’9 The ‘is’ marks the non-available origin of language, which – as stillness – cannot be captured by the sounding word. Only when the word breaks do we hear the stillness. Only poetry lets us hear that soundless stillness, that remainder that can be sung and that silently breaks through the sounding word. Poetry returns what is readable to the unreadable from where it arose. The seam that ties the readable to what can be sung is painful. Heidegger’s ‘seamstress’10 guards pain. Pain is the tear through which stillness, the non-available outside, breaks into thinking. The remainder that can be sung rhymes with pain.
Pain is the fundamental mood of human finitude. Heidegger thinks pain from the perspective of death: ‘Pain is death on a small scale – death is pain on a large scale.’11 Heidegger’s thinking traces that area of being ‘in which pain and death and love belong together’.12 It is the unavailability of the other, in particular, that keeps love, in the sense of Eros, alive. Eros is the desire for an other who escapes my grasp. Death is not simply the end of life, conceived of as a biological process. Rather, it is a particular way of being. As the ‘mystery of being’, it reaches into life. It is ‘the shrine of the nothing, namely of that which in all respects is never some mere being, but nonetheless essences, even as the mystery of being itself’.13 Death indicates that human beings are related to the non-available, to the altogether other that does not come from death.
Being only becomes perceptible under the condition of the pain of ‘pure nearness that can stand the distance’.14 Pain makes the human being receptive for the non-available, which gives him a hold and refuge. Pain bears human Dasein. This is how it differs from pleasure. It is not a temporary condition that can be removed. Rather, it constitutes the gravity of human Dasein: ‘But the more joyful the joy, the more pure the sadness slumbering within it. The deeper the sadness, the more summoning the joy resting within it. Sadness and joy play into each other. The play itself which attunes the two by letting the remote be near and the near be remote is pain. This is why both, highest joy and deepest sadness, are painful each in its way. But pain so touches the spirit of mortals that the spirit receives its gravity from pain. That gravity keeps mortals with all their wavering at rest in their being. The spirit [muot] which answers to pain, the spirit attuned by pain and to pain, is melancholy [Schwermut].’15
Concealment is the fundamental figure in Heidegger’s thinking. ‘Concealment’ is an essential part of truth, understood as ‘unconcealment’. Being, as ‘clearing’, is surrounded by a dark forest. The earth represents what is ‘essentially self-secluding’ and evades all attempts at grasping it: ‘Earth shatters every attempt to penetrate it. It turns every merely calculational intrusion into an act of destruction. Though such destruction may be accompanied by the appearance of mastery and progress in the form of the technological-scientific objectification of nature, this mastery remains, nonetheless, an impotence of the will. The earth is openly illuminated as itself only where it is apprehended and preserved as the essentially undisclosable, as that which withdraws from every disclosure, in other words, keeps itself constantly closed up. . . . The earth is the essentially self-secluding.’16 If the earth is treated as a resource to be opened up, it is already destroyed, no matter how ‘sustainable’ our approach may be, because as earth it is ‘essentially undisclosable’. Saving the earth presupposes establishing an altogether different relation to it. We need to treat it with care. A crucial part of taking care of it is the experience of unavailability. Such care allows the earth to retain its otherness and strangeness. Treating something with care demands distance.
Today, the terrestrial order, the order of the earth, is coming to an end. It is being succeeded by the digital order. Heidegger was the last thinker of the terrestrial order. Death and pain do not belong to the digital order. They represent disturbances. Mourning and longing are also suspicious. The pain of the nearness of distance is alien to the digital order. Distance is inscribed into nearness. The digital order transforms nearness into the absence of distance, so that it is no longer painful. Under the compulsion of availability, everything is rendered accessible and consumable. The digital habitus is: everything must be available at once. The telos of the digital order is total availability. This order lacks the ‘slowness of the hesitant shyness in the face of what cannot be done’.17
Within the terrestrial order, the mysterious is essential. The watchword of the digital order, by contrast, is transparency. The digital order eliminates anything that could be concealed. The digital order also makes language transparent, that is, available, by reifying it into information. Information has no hidden reverse side. When transformed into data, the world becomes transparent. Algorithms and artificial intelligence also make human behaviour transparent, that is, calculable and controllable. The soul of the digital order is dataism, data totalitarianism. In place of narration, it substitutes addition. ‘Digital’ means numerical. The numerical is more transparent, more available, than the narrative.
Today, non-availability just means a temporary absence of availability. A world consisting exclusively of available things can only be consumed. But the world is more than the sum total of what is available. The available world loses its aura, its scent. It does not permit any lingering. Non-availability also characterizes the otherness of the other, its alterity. It protects the other against its being demeaned by becoming an object of consumption. Without ‘primordial distance’, the other is not a thou.18 He is reified into an it. The other is not appealed to in his otherness, but instead appropriated.*
Pain makes possible another kind of visibility. It is a mode of sensation that we are in the process of losing. The digital order is anaesthetic; it abolishes certain forms of temporality and perception. Heidegger would have said that the digital order leads to the forgetfulness of being. Impatience, the compulsion of immediate access, leads to the disappearance of what is enduring and slow. The enduring and slow is not deprived of anything, because it does not lack anything. It does not indicate a process that can be accelerated. Rather, it possesses its own temporality, its own reality, its own scent. What is available does not have a scent. The enduring and slow hesitates in withdrawing [zögert im Entzug]. It is a laggard [Nachzügler], a lagging light [Nachleuchter]. Lateness is its pace. ‘At once’, by contrast, is the temporality of the digital.
The mental attitude that shows patience and is prepared to wait is eroding. It provides access to a reality which we are losing amid the compulsion of total availability. A waiting which remains patient within the enduring and slow exhibits a specific kind of intentionality. It is an attitude that resigns itself to the non-available. It is not a case of waiting for but of waiting in. It is characterized by an in-sistence. This attitude follows the contours of the non-available. Renunciation is the fundamental trait of intentionless waiting. Renunciation gives. It makes us receptive to the non-available. It is opposed to consumption. The ‘mournful bearing of the need to renounce and to give away’ is, Heidegger says, a ‘receiving’.19 Pain is not a subjective sensation pointing to a lack of something but a reception, even the reception of being. Pain is a gift.
1. Martin Heidegger, Zu Ernst Jünger, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 90, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2004, p. 436.
2. Jünger, On Pain , p. 32.
3. Heidegger, Zu Ernst Jünger, p. 439.
4. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Danger’, in Bremen and Freiburg Lectures: Insight Into That Which Is and Basic Principles of Thinking, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2012, pp. 44–63; here p. 54.
5. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962, p. 176.
6. Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking, New York: Harper and Row, 1968, p. 11.
7. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991, p. 50.
8. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Nature of Language’, in On the Way to Language, New York: Harper and Row, 1971, pp. 57–108; here p. 66.
9. Ibid., p. 108.
10. Martin Heidegger, Country Path Conversations, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010, p. 102.
11. Martin Heidegger, ‘Zum Ereignis-Denken’, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 73.1, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2013, p. 735.
12. Martin Heidegger, ‘Why Poets?’, in Off the Beaten Track, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 200–41; here p. 205.
13. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Thing’, in Bremen and Freiburg Lectures, pp. 5–22; here p. 17 (emphasis added, BCH) (transl. amended).
14. Martin Heidegger, Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 3, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1981, p. 146.
15. Martin Heidegger, ‘Words’, in On the Way to Language, pp. 139–56; here p. 153.
16. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, in Off the Beaten Track, pp. 1–56; here p. 25.
17. Martin Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymne ‘Andenken’, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 52, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1982, p. 128.
18. See Martin Buber, Urdistanz und Beziehung, Heidelberg: Lambert Schneider, 1978.*
19. Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens 1910–1976, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 13, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983, p. 94.
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Sunday, August 6, 2023
Saturday, August 5, 2023
And the magic of developmental biology is that there is a mechanism by which all of these cells get together, and they are able to cooperate towards large-scale goals. This is the notion that biology uses, what I call a "Multi-scale competency-architecture," which basically means that we are not simply nested structurally in terms of cells which comprise tissues, comprising organs, and bodies, and then ultimately societies and so on-that's obviously true on a structural level.
But more interesting is the fact that each of these layers has certain problem-solving competencies. Each one solves problems in their own space, so cells are simultaneously solving problems in physiological spaces and metabolic spaces and gene expression spaces, and tissues and organs are solving those problems. But, for example, during embryogenesis or regeneration, they're also solving problems in anatomical space. They're trying to navigate a path from the shape of an early embryo or a fertilized zygote all the way up to the complexity of a human body, with all of the different types of organs and structures.
So the competency architecture refers to the fact that all of the parts inside of us and inside of all other creatures are themselves competent agents with preferences, with goals, with various abilities to pursue those goals, and other types of problem-solving capacities. What evolution has given us is this remarkable architecture where every level shapes the behavioral landscape of the levels below- and the levels below do clever and interesting things that allow the levels above not to have to micromanage, and to be able to control in an interesting top-down capacity.
One of the most important things about this emerging field of diverse intelligence is that we, as humans, have very limited capacity and finely-honed ability to see intelligence in medium-sized objects moving at medium speeds through three-dimensional space. So we see other primates and we see crows and we see dolphins, and we have some ability to recognize intelligence. But we really are very bad at recognizing intelligence in unconventional embodiments where our basic expectations strain against this idea that there could be intelligence in something extremely small or extremely large.
People often criticize this approach by saying, "Well, then anything goes. If you can pick up a rock and say,'I think this rock is cognitive and intelligent, you know, there's a spirit with hopes and dreams inside of every rock.'" That's not what this is. This is quite different.
As an engineer, what you have to do is you have to come up with a way to look at a particular system that doesn't overestimate its intelligence or underestimate its intelligence.
If you treat complex animals as if they were clockwork, you're gonna miss everything that's important and exciting about how they work. If you treat a clock as if it had a complex intelligence, you're going to waste a lot of time- but getting it right is fundamentally important.
And so, you have this spectrum where the engineer has to pick the right level for the right system, and it's critical not to then say, "Well, that doesn't sound like human intelligence," right? We're looking for the basic minimal version.
So I think it should have two things: The first thing it should have is some degree of goal-directedness, some ability to take different paths to get to the same goals; so this is William James's definition of intelligence. And it has to have some ability to undertake actions that are not completely determined by local circumstances.
So you start with all of that, and systems that have scaled up, those basic, very fundamental, non-zero levels of agency, we call that life.
So it is a spectrum, and I think that in this Universe it goes all the way to the bottom. It's very hard for people to think about these unconventional kinds of intelligences that may be either too large or too small. And of course, they often work in other spaces.
So we're good with three-dimensional space, but imagine if we had a primary sense of our own blood chemistry. If you could feel your blood chemistry the way that you currently see and smell and taste things that are around you, I think we would have absolutely no problem having an intuitive understanding of physiological-state space the way we do for three-dimensional space. I think that we would immediately be able to recognize our various internal organs as intelligent agents navigating that space and solving these kind of problems, all the various things that happen during the day.
And here's one of my favorite examples of problem solving in physiological and transcriptional spaces: So we have these worms. These are Planaria, these are flatworms. And if you put these flatworms in a solution of barium- barium is a non-specific potassium channel blocker; it blocks the ability of these cells to exchange potassium with the outside world- the cells really don't like it, especially cells in the head, because the head is full of neurons; neurons love to pass potassium. And so what happens is that overnight their heads explode. Literally, it's called head deprogression; they literally lose their heads.
But if you leave them in the barium, within a couple weeks they grow back a new head. And the new head is completely barium-adapted, has no problem with the barium whatsoever.
We said, "How could this be?" We looked at the original heads, the original naive heads, we looked at the barium-adapted heads, and we simply did a subtraction and asked, "What are the different genes that are expressed here?"
And we found out that the barium-adapted heads have just a small number of genes that were turned on and off to allow them to adapt to this novel stressor.
Now, here's the amazing part. Planaria never see barium in the wild. There's no evolutionary history of knowing what to do when you're hit with barium. This is not an ecological stressor that they normally have to deal with.
So just imagine you're a bunch of cells and you're hit with this incredible physiological stressor you've never seen before. You've got tens of thousands of genes. What do you do? How do you know which genes to turn on and off? You don't have time to try combinations. You don't have time for an exhaustive search. You don't have time for hill climbing. You don't have time to try random things because you'll probably kill the cell long before you solve the problem. And yet, you are able to navigate from where you are to where you need to be to escape this physiological stressor.
And so, what I think evolution has done is pivoted some of the same tricks from very simple systems that only solve metabolic problems eventually to physiological and then to transcriptional problems. And when multicellularity comes on the scene, large-scale anatomical problems.
And so it's never a question of: Is something physics and chemistry, or is it cognitive? The question is: What kind of cognition, and how much?