March 08, 2010

Every form and color related to the dire struggle for existence

Real study is political work. Example: Lenin spent his darkest political winter preparing, preparing, preparing to launch what would become a singularity in history, a proletarian revolution, and how? By studying Hegel. Not by learning how to be a Hegelian, but by learning from and against Hegel, reading critically, reading like a grownup and not a devotee. Do that.

Yes, it is true that life is unsatisfying. The biological world is not fair. The social world, families and nations and relationships, need not be so unfair as they are today. Work toward a fair and kind world.

Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer makes an irrefutable point in saying that an essential aspect of any mass movement (e.g., Islamism, fascism, communism, socialism etc. etc.) is that it spreads by encouraging utopian fantasies and promises of future societal bliss. In order to succeed, all such movements must have followers who are "true believers" through and through; and, as the annointed ones, they are eager and willing to sacrifice themselves (and often many others) for the sake of their cause.

As people become unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives, they become succeptible to anyone and any group who makes vague promises of the "hope and change" kind. […] And, Sowell noticed back in 2008 that many of the followers of Barack Obama were 'true believers' who had attached themselves to the ultimate "political busybody" who was going to--by force of his incredible personality--heal the planet; bring hope to the hopeless; and change to the world, leading us into a glorious future. […]

So there was President Obama, giving his bazillionth speech on health care, droning yet again that "now is the hour when we must seize the moment," the same moment he's been seizing every day of the week for the past year, only this time his genius photo-op guys thought it would look good to have him surrounded by men in white coats. 

Michael Marder on the task ahead.

In lieu of prescribing an easy way to overcome the problem of modernity, Husserlian reduction and Heideggerian de-formalization impose the exigency of a patient, if not Sisyphean, theoretical and practical work of removing layers of sedimentation that are bound to re-grow, given that their accumulation constitutes the movement of history.

Rather than peeling the layers off the historical onion, use a sharp knife to slice through them. There will be less tears in the end. 

John Searle on Derrida's mistake.

Now, in the twentieth century, mostly under the influence of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, we have come to believe that this general search for these sorts of foundations is misguided. There aren't in the way classical metaphysicians supposed any foundations for ethics or knowledge. For example, we can't in the traditional sense found language and knowledge on "sense data" because our sense data are already infused with our linguistic and social practices. Derrida correctly sees that there aren't any such foundations, … From The New York Review of Books review "The Word Turned Upside Down".

I went to the market today. At the news kiosk I picked up the Feb. 26 Times Literary Supplement. The TLS has a commentary by Lesley Chamberlain on "Heidegger through post-Darwinian eyes".

She argues that Darwin's influence on Heidegger is under appreciated because when we read translations of Heidegger's German the similarities are unapparent to us, but in German Heidegger is using the same vocabulary as the German translation of The Origin of the Species. Half of the essay is on the German art world's reaction to Darwinism, and The Origin of the Work of Art.

[T]here were two driving ideas behind that lecture. One suggested that works of art, defined as the truth-at-work-in-the-work, cast a special light on Being. It followed from this that art, and beauty, and the truth of the work, should be considered in a sphere other than traditional aesthetics. After Darwin, who showed that the mind and the moral sense had also evolved and did not come divinely equipped with a sense of beauty, truth and goodness, both the moral worth of high art and the category of category of beauty were radically disrupted. Darwin showed that "every form and color that man chose to find beautiful, from the spirals of a shell to the blooms of an insect-pollinated flower, were the effects of 'secondary laws'. . . related to the dire struggle for existence".

And so Heidegger could say aesthetics was another set of beliefs left with no ground to stand on. Beauty did not relate to an impulse of delight the Creator wished to share with mankind. Nor did it have, for Darwin at least, a "higher" meaning. Heidegger gave art a meaning, to allow a glimpse of Being, but he showed a wilful lack of interest in art's human creators. Look again at what Darwin was accused of from the side of the humanities: we can see how closely it matches the negative view of Heidegger that prevailed in many circles to the end of he twentieth century. "The subversive tendency. . . challenged the whole basis of traditional thinking about the beauty of the creation".

Evolutionary theory, which gave beauty a subordinate use in the struggle to sustain emergence, removed the moral privilege of the work of art, and the moral and the social status of those who claimed it as the vehicle for universal truths. The impact of Darwin's undoing of classical aesthetics was democratic and particuliarizing and localizing, and he was rightly accused of undoing high culture; as Heidegger seems to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment