Occupy Wall Street

I’ve been sifting through comment threads on various media outlets and was struck by the following post, which was in response to a fellow commenter. Apologies to the person who posted the following but I couldn’t ask permission.

“I agree with Tyler about the student debt nonsense. As a 23 year old who has graduated college in May of 2011 with an engineering degree, it’s not that I felt “entitled” to some level of material wealth and now I’m pissed off. I was supposed to leave for the Peace Corps in September of 2011 but was made to hold off until June of 2012 because of the budget cuts to that department. I recognize our unsustainable lifestyles. I criticized Nick Kristof’s article on this movement for the same reasons: unrestrained capitalistic societies dependent on economic growth simply cannot continue indefinitely, especially with emerging economies taking their share.

What I am pissed about, as Tyler said, is the amount of debt that I’m stuck with, with no way of paying it off — despite the fact that I got an “engineering degree” from a top school (my program is ranked 10th in the nation). It was a state school, too, so it’s not like I went to an expensive private university. I put engineering degree in quotes because everyone always says, “Well what did you expect getting that POS liberal arts degree?” If the job market wasn’t this bad, I would be able to pay off this debt easily. It’s essentially the same reasons homeowners who were evicted are pissed off. They entered a contract under agreed circumstances, and now the other side isn’t living up to its end of the bargain. I got this degree because I always wanted to be an astronaut. During college, the president’s campaign made me change my mind and I instead wanted to go into public service, so I applied to the Peace Corps. And now I can’t even fucking do that, and I’m stuck with $50,000 in debt substitute teaching when I can while looking for permanent work. It’s bullshit, Freddie, and it’s not because “I want mine!” You don’t call yourself a Marxist; I don’t know exactly how I want society to eventually operate, but it is very much inspired by Marxist thought. I don’t know that I’m a Marxist either, but I do know that something has to change, and these grievances aren’t necessarily “I want mine, dammit.”

Herder Quotes

A few minutes ago a good friend and I discussed some aspects of Mill’s relationship to developments within German liberalism. I made the claim that, despite the disclaimers proffered by anglo-american political thought, Mill and other British and American liberals display an incredible reliance on the work of a number of German liberals, most specifically von Humboldt and Herder. After a number of comments tossed back and forth, I glanced quickly at a number of quotes on a PDF copy of Herder’s Letters for the Advancement of Humanity, a text to which I’ve not returned since Dan Breazeale’s German Philosophy course. Here’s the two quotes which came to mind. After some searching I found them:

“Should not the voice of each citizen, even assuming that it appeared in print, be considered a freedom of the fatherland? Especially valuable for the man of understanding are the hints and looks of those who see further. They inspire to activity when everyone is asleep; they sigh perhaps when everyone is dancing. But they do not only sigh; they show higher results in simpler equations by means of a certain art. Do you want to make them be silent because you calculate merely according to the common arithmetic? they go silent easily and continue to calculate; but the fatherland counted on these quiet calculators. A single step of progress that ehy successfully indicated is worth more than ten thousand ceremonies and eulogies”.

“Free investigation of the truth from all sides is the sole antidote against delusion and error of whatever sort they may be…The river current of human cognition always purifies itself through oppositions, through strong contrasts. here it breaks off, there it starts; and in the end a long and much purified delusion is regarded by human being as truth”.

“Let the deluded person defend his delusion, the person who thinks differently his thought; that is their business. Even if both of them fail to be corrected, for the unbiased person there certainly arises out of every criticized error a new reason, a new view of the truth”.

Also, in On the Ability to Speak and to Hear there’s this gem:

“We see everywhere that men in whom there was a great drive to become acquainted with the truth from all sides sought even on remote sides intercourse with people who dared to speak freely.”

I’d like to thank my good friend Brad Johnson for inspiring the Herder search.

Bolaño and Fresán

In the essay “All Subjects with Fresán”, included in the collection Between Parentheses, Bolaño provides the following list of subjects he and his good friend talked about over various evenings:

1) The Latin American hell that, especially on weekends, is concentrated around some Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald’s.

2) The doings of Buenos Aires photographer Alfredo Garofano, childhood friend of Rodrigo and how a friend of mine and of anyone with the least bit of discernment.

3) Bad translations.

4) Serial killers and mass murders.

5) Prospective leisure as the antidote to prospective poetry.

6) The vast number of writers who should retire after writing their first book or their second or their third or their fourth or their fifth.

7) The superiority of the work of Basquiat to that of Haring, or vice versa.

8 ) The works of Borges and the works of Bioy.

9) The advisability of retiring to a ranch in Mexico near a volcano to finish writing The Turkey Buzzard Trilogy.

10) Wrinkles in the space time continuum.

11) The kind of majestic women you’ve never met who come up to you in a bar and whisper in your ear that they have AIDS (or that they don’t).

12) Gombrowicz and his conception of immaturity.

13) Philip K. Dick, whom we both unreservedly admire.

14) The likelihood of a war between Chile and Argentina and its possible and impossible consequences.

15) The life of Proust and the life of Stendhal.

16) The activities of some professors in the United States.

17) The sexual practices of titi monkeys and ants and great cetaceans.

18) Colleagues who must be avoided like limpet mines.

19) Ignacio Echevarria, whom both of us love and admire.

20) Some Mexican writers liked by me and not by him, and some Argentine writers like by me and not by him.

21) Barcelonan manners.

22) David Lynch and the prolixity of David Foster Wallace.

23) Chabon and Palahniuk, whom he likes and I don’t.

24) Wittgenstein and his plumbing and carpentry skills.

25) Some twilit dinners, which actually, to the surprise of the diner, become theater pieces in five acts.

26) Trashy TV game shows.

27) The end of the world.

28) Kubrick’s films, which Fresán loves so much that I’m beginning to hate them.

29) The incredible war between the planet of the novel-creatures and the planet of the story beings.

30) The possibility that when the novel awakes from its iron dreams, the story will be there.

Der Weltbegriff

This morning, before work, I read some sections from Kant’s KRV. One passage in particular struck me as relevant to the project on which I’m currently working: The attempt to provoke Naturalism to account for and justifiy its metaphysical claims despite its motivational bent to the contrary. “Motivational bent to the contrary” here connotes Naturalism’s professed allergy to the metaphysical project and its so-called avoidance of entering the game of speculating about metaphysical entities like God, Soul, Mind, Free Will, Thought, etc. However, agreeing with Russell when he claims in the opening sentence of his wonderful essay “Mysticism and Logic” that metaphysics can be construed as an Ausgriff aus der Ganze it’s easily seen how blatantly Naturalism involves itself malgré lui in a dialectical contradiction. Naturalism, then, enters the “Kampfplatz endloser Streitigkeiten” by achieving a Blick von Nirgendwo and explicity making wholesale metaphysical claims concerning the actual domain-category of all actual-existing entities. The problem for Naturalism is that the domain category, The World, doesn’t exist in the empirical world, nor can it be inferred from any set of data one might encounter in everyday life nor in experimentation. “The World” is not out there in the world; “The World” is not in the world. Metaphysical Naturalism, as we can now call it, makes the ontological salto mortale, an unconscious death-drive which leaps from the living-breathing empirical world in order to extract and abstract itself to a view from nowhere from which it can assert pronouncement regarding the World. MN leaps from its presumed local domain of empirical objects and their relations to an ontological determination of the Whole which amounts to nothing less than a theory of totality. MN will then run into serious problems attempting to justify not only the nature of its limited ontological domain but more importantly to justify how, according to its own criteria, it can even make such claims in the first place. As I’ve mentioned before Naturalism cannot justify its claims by appeals to what’s contain within its domain for qua domain it determines the intelligibility of those entities which appear within the Domain and as such determines a priori what can and can’t appear within the domain over which it quantifies.

So, after reading some sections from Kant, I found the following passage informative and rather surprising. “Surprising” because I don’t recall Kant employing the metaphor of Horizon, a metaphor I’ve always associated with Heidegger and Gadamer. Kant claims:

“Man kann einen jeden Begriff als einen Punkt aansehen, der, als der Standpunkt des Zuschauers, seinen Horizont hat, d.i. eine Menge von Dingen, die aus demselben können, deren jeder wiederum seinen engeren Gesichtskereis hat. Aber zu verschiedenen Horizonten, d.e. Gattungen, die aus eben so viel Begriffen bsteimmt werden, läßt sich ein gemeinschaftlicher Horizont, daraus man sie insgesamt als aus einem Mittelpunkte überschauet, gezogen denken, welcher die höhere Gattung itst, bis endlich die höchste Gattung der allgemeine und wahre Horizont ist, der aus dem Standupunkte des höchsten Begriffs bestimmt wird, und alle mannigfaltigkeit, als Gattungen, Arten und Unterarten, unter sich befaßt”.  (KRV pg. 686 Suhrkamp)

A determinate concept of the Whole, like Metaphysical Naturalism, functions as an ersatz for an illusory and non-existent unity and organization within the world.

We can see this thought running throughout the so-called philosophical conversation, most recently in Habermas’ invocation of the notion of a shared reality “halfway between worldviews” which is a condition for the possibility of his communicative heaven in which Interlocuters exist. Heaven as a silent kingdom, perhaps a silent, gestureless School of Athens, in which everyone agrees and, therefore, says nothing. (Or, suppose we all disagree but at least agree that we disagree and therefore invoke this as axiomatic therefore leading to disagreeable and disagreement-silence.) Also, though I’ve not yet read the book itself in its entirety, only scattered sections secondary sources and equally as scattered conversations, Badiou’s challenging Logics of Worlds appears to adapt some of the insights from his magesterial Being and Event to a more explicity notion of world-fashioning using, among other things, category theory. Badiou’s use of the plural is relevant here as the conversation has thus far intentionally circumvented an obvious idea: the notion of a multi-verse. Worlds. A world of Worlds. The World of Worlds. Here’s a representative passage for my purposes here:

“Given a world and a function of appearing whose values lie in the transcendental of this world, we will call ‘existence’ of a being x which appears in this world the transcendental degree assigned to the self-identity of x. Thus defined, existence is not a category of being (of mathematics), it is a category of appearing (of logic). In particular, ‘to exist’ has no meaning in itself. In agreement with one of Sartre’s insights, who borriows it from Heidegger, but also from Kierkegaard or even Pascal, ‘to exist’ can only be said relatively to a world. In effect, existence is nothing but a transcendental degree. It indicates the intensity of appearance of a multiple-being in a determinate world, and this intensity is by no means prescribed by the pure multiple composition of the being in question”.