Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Philosophy should not seek converts, but rather should aim at the proliferation of differences

Of Cranks and Olives from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects
Recent discussion surrounding trolls, minotaurs, gray vampires and the whole growing bestiary have gotten me thinking about a post I wrote my first year blogging entitled “In Praise of Irritation” later published in Reconstruction. [...]

The measure of a successful philosophy, in my view, is not whether or not it manages to earn converts. In this respect, the very thesis of the grey vampire as the subject that always seems just about ready to agree or endorse a position is deeply, in my view, mistaken. The true measure of a successful philosophy, I think, is whether or not it becomes a difference engine. As I understand it, a difference engine is an entity that is perpetually adept at producing differences. This is not an egalitarian, happy go lucky free for all. There will be antagonisms, conflicts, wars, and so on. But nonetheless differences are produced. The differences that a difference engine produces can be unexpected projects that a philosophy manages to spawn. I have been surprised as a somewhat militant atheist, for example, at the manner in which my onticology has been picked up and sent in very different directions by certain theologians. This is something that I would have never expected.

However, a difference engine is not simply the production of sympathetic projects. It is also to be found at the level of antagonistic projects. If a philosophy can generate antagonisms, alternative thoughts, opposing thoughts, and so on, it has been successful as a difference engine. This might be a painful admission or observation as none of us like existing in a state of warfare and conflict or witnessing our painstakingly developed thoughts trod upon. However, not only has a philosophy made a contribution to the symbolic world in functioning as a stimulus of creating antagonisms and therefore shifting the frame of discourse, but also I think philosophies benefit self-reflexively from the others or the antonyms they generate insofar as they’re forced to generate new concepts, lines of argument, and applications.

In this regard, I cannot agree with the sortal of “grey vampires”, no matter how much I sympathize with and admire those who are formulating it. In my view, the evangelical model of philosophy is a monstrosity. Philosophy should not seek converts, but rather should aim at the proliferation of differences. The difficult issue is how to distinguish between the verb of trollery where the aim is to shut down any and all discourse through shouting and wearing guns on ones hip, and the verb of grey vampirism where it is possible to produce some productive differences.

However, in this medium, in this strange universe of the blogosphere, I think it is above all important to remember that from the perspective of the academy, we’re all cranks, trolls, and gray vampires despite any philosophical and theoretical difference we might have. Our very mode of engagement, from an institutional perspective, is illegitimate and lacking in seriousness or productivity. We are cranks, trolls, strange new minotaurs of an electronic world. There is no division here. We’re all selected in one and exactly the same way. The real question is not whether these judgments are true, but whether or not we identify with those who make those judgments.

Further, it should never be forgotten that those of us who have attained some success in this medium are outsiders and marginalized figures in an entire institutionalized setting. They are folks who got sick of submitting materials to shriveled and tired dusty figures functioning as the real minotaurs at the gates of journals, conferences, and presses, submitting their work to a scrutiny by these minotaurs to decide whether or not they were worthy of their gate (to be read as worthy of being submitted to their university discourse or established habitus), and who preferred to accept their minor, marginalized status and do what they really wanted to do anyway: think, invent, and talk to other interesting cranks.

The real test is whether or not one identifies with those minotaurs guarding the gate [...] Sometimes its better simply to collect sea glass and talk about turtles and mothmen. Although we have quasi-minotaurs that appear here in the blogosphere, that’s not where the real minotaurs are to be found.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mukherjee's mâ tujhé bulâtî hai sung in Paris

from Prithwin Mukherjee prithwin.mukherjee@gmail.com to "Tusar N. Mohapatra" tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 15 Aug 2009 19:13 subject Darshan Day
Bhâi Tusar,

The Ambassador, H.E. Ranjan Mathai had informed me last month about a possibility of programming my patriotic song mâ tujhé bulâtî hai for 15 August ceremony. Yesterday evening my musician friend Bittoo Banger confirmed that he has been invited by the Ambassador to sing it this morning after flag hoisting, janaganamana and the President's message : he had forgotten to intimate me!

It has been a grand success: everybody seems to have caught the spirit behind the composition. I had composed it fifty years ago, as a protest against Chinese aggression, and our Ashram choir had interpreted it ardently. The senior poetesse Vidyavati 'Kokil' was so happy with it that she sent a copy of the words to Sumitranandan Pant-ji. Recently I have worked electronically on the orchestra accompaniment.

Wish you all the best.

Philosophy in its purest form, its most productive form, is 'blogosophy'

Maverick Philosopher: In Praise of Blogosophy
by Bill Vallicella Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Philosophy is primarily an activity, not a body of doctrine. If you were to think of it as a body of doctrine, then you would have to say there is no philosophy, but only philosophies. For there is no one universally recognized body of doctrine called philosophy. The truth of course is one not many. And that is what the philosopher aims at: the one ultimate truth about the ultimate matters, including the ultimate truth about how we ought to live. But aiming at a target and hitting it are two different things. The target is one, but our many arrows have fallen short and in different places. And if you think that your favorite philosopher has hit the target of truth, why can't you convince the rest of us of that?

Disagreement does not of course prove the nonexistence of truth, but it does cast reasonable doubt on all claims to its possession. Philosophy aspires to sound, indeed incontrovertible, doctrine. But the quest for it has proven tough indeed. For all we know it may lie beyond our powers. Not that this gives us reason to abandon the quest. But it does give us reason to be modest and undogmatic.

Philosophy, then, is primarily an activity, a search, a quest. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Kant remarks that "Philosophy cannot be taught, we can at most learn to philosophize." I agree. It cannot be taught because it does not exist as teachable doctrine. Philosophy is not something we profess, except perhaps secondarily; it is something we do. The best professors of philosophy are doers of philosophy.

How then should we do philosophy? Conversation face-to-face with the like-minded, intelligent, and sincere is useful but ephemeral and hard to arrange. Jetting off to conferences can be fun especially if the venue is exotic and the tab is picked up your department. But reading papers at conferences is pretty much a waste of time when it comes to actually doing productive philosophy. Can you follow a technical paper simply by listening to it? If you can you're smarter than me.

So we ought to consider the idea that philosophy in its purest form, its most productive form, is 'blogosophy,' philosophy pursued by weblog. And there is this in favor of it: blogging takes pressure off the journals. Working out my half-baked ideas here, I am less likely to submit material that is not yet ready for embalming in printer's ink. Posted at 09:32 AM in Blogging, Metaphilosophy

Philosophy, then, is primarily an activity, a search, a quest.

Independent philosopher Jeff Meyerhoff has a paper titled "Arguments beyond reason", where he says:

"It's commonly thought that once the participants in a rational discussion have exhausted all rational means of coming to agreement there is nothing more to do except to agree to disagree. By following a line of thought justified by current outcomes in contemporary analytic philosophy, I argue that there is a further investigation that rational discussants can pursue which is called for because our deeply held beliefs are held for non-rational rather than rational reasons. I further argue that this exploration into the basis of belief — rather than the belief itself — does, contrary to the genetic fallacy, affect truth and objectivity. While distasteful for most intellectuals to contemplate, the basis of individual beliefs in personal psychologies makes necessary the individual and joint exploration of the irrational"

One of the arguments used by Meyerhoff (to support his position) is:

"If we examine our reasons for believing what we believe beyond the reason-giving we do to defend our beliefs we find the animating core which motivates us to have the beliefs that we have and deploy the reasons that we do. The reasons we give for believing as we do are not the real reasons we believe because they always ultimately end in circularity, regress or assumptions.[6] Since all belief-systems if pursued far enough will end in circularity, regress or assumptions we cannot say that reasons are what ultimately cause us to believe. There must be something else which causes us to adopt our particular chain of reasons or web of beliefs. Since in terms of their ultimate rational foundation our belief system is as good as an opposed belief-system, there must be something else which causes us to choose, and which holds us to, our particular belief-system. What is characteristic of us is not only the combination of beliefs we have woven together, since everyone does that with greater or lesser originality, but why we adhere to this, rather than that, belief-system. In our rational discussions there is a way in which we completely miss the point since it is not the reasons we are deploying that cause us to believe. If we are trying to convince another person or challenge our own beliefs then we should, for more efficiency, go to the source of the belief, which is the emotional and psychic need to have the world be the way we believe it is" http://www.philosophos.com/philosophy_article_96.html

As far I disagree with some of Meyerhoff's ideas, I think he's right about the "non-rational" motives of beliefs (including, philosophical beliefs). His thesis explain why highly brillant philosophers, discussing about the same problem, can't get a rational agreetment about it, according to the truth and the best arguments for it. But it rarely ocurrs.

Meyerhooff's thesis also explain David Lewis' assertion "philosophical theories are never refuted conclusively". The reason is that one position considered "decisively refuted" by many (e.g. substance dualism), isn't considered refuted by others (like Bill Vallicella, Edward Feser or a non-professional philosopher like me). Are we more rational, wise, intelligent or informed than the others anti-dualistic philosphers? It could be the case or not, but I doubt it's the core of the problem.

Given that refutation is a technical concept in logic, we'd expect that rational philosophers be agree when a thesis is "refuted conclusively" or not. But even in that simple logical question they disagree! (suporting partially, again, Meyerhoff's thesis)

Meyerhoff's thesis, pushed it consistently throught its ultimate implications, could imply relativism. But even relativism isn't "conclusively refuted"; in fact, there is contemporary defenses of it in analytic philosophy. One of them can be seen here:

For the record: I'm a firm believer in realism, I believe in objective truth, I support substance dualism and I think positions like eliminativism (and other forms of materialism) are probably false. However, I'm not 100% sure that my reasons to believe in them are totally due (only) to rational motives, and these doubts tend to get stronger when I see informed professional philosophers (wiser than me) defend views that (in my opinion) are completely absurd or ridiculous. Posted by: Jime Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 02:47 PM

Friday, August 14, 2009

Technically it's impressive, but morally it's a horror

Swans Commentary » swans.com January 26, 2009
The Poverty Of Slumdog Millionaire
by Jeff Meyerhoff Film Review (Swans - January 26, 2009)

The beloved new movie "Slumdog Millionaire," directed by Danny Boyle, exploits the poverty of India's orphans to tell a fanciful love story. Technically it's impressive, but morally it's a horror. The movie uses the devastatingly horrible life of Indian street orphans to tell what is essentially an escapist love adventure and preposterous rags-to-riches story, complete with a hero who rescues a fair maiden from a castle where she's being held by an evil mobster/monster. The audience forgets the horrors he and the other orphaned children endure because they're all redeemed by our hero becoming rich and getting the girl of his dreams.

The exploited experiences linger as the movie induces us to forget about them and move on with the story. There's the hero's brother who's been put in charge of a crew of abandoned orphan-beggars. He threatens a little girl that he'll drop a screaming baby on the ground if the girl doesn't hold the baby and keep her screaming to get more handouts on the street. At first, the girl refuses and the audience gets to experience the nightmarish prospect of this parentless, crying baby being dropped on the ground, but then, reluctantly, she agrees to hold the baby. The scene ends and the audience is guided back to the flowering love story.

In another scene, a little boy is intentionally blinded by the mobster who pimps the pack of orphaned beggar children. Years later, we encounter the blind boy again, older, but fated to stand in the subway singing for handouts, his useless eyes crossing every which way. He cheerily tells our hero a fact that comes in handy later in the movie and so, having served his purpose, can be forgotten too.

The audience is traumatized with these and other horrors, any one of which should have been the subject of a movie but here usefully serve as the horrible contrast that makes the hero's fanciful victory satisfying.

We'll allow ourselves to be exposed to Conradian horrors such as these, as long as we feel entertained and we get full redemption in the end. It's much like the TV show "Animal Rescue 911" on Animal Planet Channel. Abused animals are found and then saved. The audience is terrorized and then relieved. What's hidden is the reality of all the suffering animals that don't get saved and die horrible deaths we couldn't bear to imagine and would never agree to watch. "Slumdog Millionaire" gives us a glimpse of "the horror" to further its story and then induces us to forget. Review of Slumdog Millionaire from philosophy autobiography by Jeff Meyerhoff

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Injustices and abuses that arise in anarchy are left off-stage, or, at best, used as stage-dressing and color

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 10:10 am Another way of looking at libertarianism is to see it as classic liberalism’s evil twin.

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 11:26 am
This is part of why I said it’s not just a product of the Western US, but also that it’s a product of the Western as a film genre. It’s a fable, a myth, and quite a ways removed from reality. It’s what Americans like to believe about themselves, as exemplified by the Western, and now rationalized into a political philosophy. It egregiously ignores the role that government played in making the settling of the West possible and prosperous and ignores all the ways in which lack of governance allowed horrible exploitation and ruthless monopolies.

I watched Rio Bravo the other night and I think it’s an interesting example in both how it exemplifies a typical exception to this rule and how both the Western and libertarianism square that circle. There is, occasionally, a large landowner (typically a rancher) who is ruthlessly greedy and corrupt. The character of “Nathan Burdette” plays that role as antagonist in Rio Bravo.

But notice that the film mostly elides the government’s role in controlling Burdette and bringing him to justice: John Wayne’s character, Sheriff John T. Change acts on his own (deputizing locals as necessary!) to uphold the law in the town—the courageous individual, the David facing Goliath. It would all be for naught weren’t for the Federal Marshal coming to pick up his prisoners, but we never see this. The entire situation is portrayed as a wholly local phenomena that is resolved locally. But, of course, a great many aspects of it aren’t local and involve government.

Even when one looks at something as ostensibly realist and cynical as the recent TV series, Deadwood, most of the injustices and abuses that arise in anarchy are left off-stage, or, at best, used as stage-dressing and color. Swearengen is a sort of robber-baron, but he’s a sympathetic robber-baron who is, in his own way, contributing to the greater good. What we don’t see is anything beyond the merest glimpses of life among the Chinese. Or, for that matter, the prostitutes. Indeed, even in Deadwood, there’s a lot of hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold mythology that is the essence of the traditional Western tavern girl. And, above all, the show teems with the energy of individualistic desire to build and improve. And this is among the very few most cynical examples of the Western genre, ever!

This careful blindness is precisely mimicked in libertarian philosophy. The poor, ruthlessly exploited by the greedy monopolistic rich, are either off-stage or delivered from their oppression by a brave individual acting on his own moral authority. Good will triumph! It’s a matter of faith and a very selectively blind worldview. 12:24 PM

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Human unity through Hui Ward’s music

Home > Andrea Guy, Reviews > SATCHITANANDA” and “SAT (EXISTENCE)
SATCHITANANDA” and “SAT (EXISTENCE) August 7th, 2009

Hui Ward takes us to a new level of consciousness with both music and spoken word with the albums Satchitnanda and Sat (existence). Perhaps to fully appreciate the beauty of this recording would be to understand the journey that Hui Ward took to create this beautiful work. This journey led here to Auroville where she discovered Matrimandir, which is a city that was created by Sri Aurobindo Ashram that is “a universal town where men and women are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”

The soundscapes of Satchitananda correspond to the levels of consciousness that are embodied in the design of the 12 gardens in Auroville. Does that sound too hard to comprehend? Perhaps so, but you can achieve human unity through music, and Hui Ward’s music on these two albums should inspire you to explore that higher level of consciousness that has fascinated many over the years.

The three twelve minute soundscapes on Satchitananda are Existence, Consciousness and Bliss and the other three on Sat (Existence) are Light, Life and Power, fittingly those are the first six of the twelve gardens. Its very easy to lose yourself in the music, so beautiful are the sounds of the violin and bansuri and Hui’s voice that is often like Bjork’s but with less of an edge that sometimes make’s the later difficult to listen to for long periods of time.

The spoken word portions of both discs may alienate the listener, especially if they are of the casual variety and not quite open to understanding Hui’s journey and how she’s sharing it. If you fall into that category, step back and listen to the music a few times. Let the bansuri take your spirit in its flight, as it seems to be like the instrumental equivalent of a bird, singing its sweet song for all to hear. Listen to Hui’s voice and let it fill your mind. That’s what the music should do. Fill your mind and your soul. Listen to the six musical tracks in a row and I guarantee that your outlook will be much improved, your body more relaxed and your mind more open.

Its likely that not all of the listeners will be able to achieve the human unity that Hui is trying to create with her Om Creation series, but certainly everyone that gives these two discs a listen will take away with them a better understanding of one person and her music. The mixture of Northern and Southern Indian music is very pleasing to the ear and when combined with the vocal is a unique listening experience that one should savor.

Again these albums aren’t for just anyone, but if you seek to find even just a small piece of enlightenment, these albums are as good a place as any to start. The music is ethereal, soothing and uplifting. Truly a delight to the ears and possibly a path to paradise even if you can only stay there as long as the album plays. Reviewed By Andrea Guy http://community.livejournal.com/mossip/

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The poems are certain to initiate empathy and déjà vu

‘Silent Horizons’ is the debut collection of poems of Parthajeet Das which has all the shades of his age captured beautifully in words. The two aptly named sections of the book, 'Restless Pilgrim' and 'Still Restless' mark the transition of the author not only in terms of poetic style and form but also in maturity of thought and expression. But, as the names suggest, the fundamental driver for the author remains the same - an irrepressible restlessness.

The restlessness arises from the author's experiences, his inability to answer the questions that gape at his face and also from not so successful attempts to elicit answers. The author in the space of the poems swings from being the inquisitive teenager to the wise old man and to the restless young man that he is. The poems are certain to initiate empathy and déjà vu among readers. The author experiments with form and expression but all the poems are marked with lyricism and internal rhythm and make a delightful reading experience.

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