Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: episteme

On ‘pretext’

Going through some word definitions and contexts of their use brought me to ‘pretext‘. Nicely contextualised to the speeches of Cato the Elder, I somehow got reminded of our present media war-drum beating against Iran.

It’s been a while since I watched this, but the past rhetorical build-up against Iraq is very similar to the ongoing one. Now, watching the video, who exactly is a threat to whom?

One thing is for sure, however. War-mongering Americans have read their history well.

Jesters allowed

A rather disturbing remark closed a fine Žižek documentary. Reacting to someone’s question about the ‘funniness’ side of his popularity, he raised his concern of that in many places he is only published/read/heard when he tells jokes when confronting serious social and political issues. In other words–being funny is the prerequisite of having voice!

The importance lies in that elite-disturbing talk is not welcome at all, with the natural exception of ‘eccentric professors’, ‘artists’ and other marginal groups whose very existence legitimates the canon of ‘liberal democracy’. And when they do raise their voice, they are only allowed to do it when they take the time not to confront the status quo directly.

Hence, every time one feels the urge to voice criticism, one should adopt the helpful attitude of actively planting ‘comediality’ to one’s talk; thus avoiding the direct confrontation of the established language-game!

A thought that also rang my Rorty-bell immediately (Contingency, irony, and solidarity: pp. 48)!

Those who speak the old language and have no wish to change, those who regard it as a hallmark of rationality or morality to speak just that language, will regard as altogether irrational the appeal of the new metaphors – the new language game which the radicals, the youth, or the avant-garde are playing. The popularity of the new ways of speaking will be viewed as a matter of “fashion” or “the need to rebel” or “decadence.” The question of why people speak this way will be treated as beneath the level of conversation – a matter to be turned over to psychologists or, if necessary, the police.

This is not…

One of the most often heard outcries in art galleries, universities, and conferences starts: “This is not…”

Be it ‘art’, ‘philosophy’ or ‘science’, each has their very own guardians devoting time and effort on the assessment, fulfillment and reproduction of the criteria of their precious doctrine. As if the ‘art’ would disappear if the linguistic conventions surrounding it would (and they inevitably are) be structured and re-structured.

And I’m not talking about the underlying theory of truth shaping the world-view of the guardian, but rather the need for ontological security through departmentalist smothering.

Acclaimed French sociologist/anthropologist/philosopher Pierre Bourdieu noted (in his famous Distinction) that different tastes emerge from fundamentally negative positioning. Someone is not to be associated with something–the definition being absence rather than presence.

This puts the current departmentalisation of knowledge and even scholarship into a questionable light, in the very ‘scientific’ terms that it outspokenly embraces. How is it possible that (at least in my mind) most fundamentally new insights emerge from the ranks of talented generalists refusing to take a tag of one camp or another?

Moments of clarity

It’s always as intriguing to come up with ideas between sleeping and being awake. Given the abstraction capabilities of the human mind, one can not but wonder the role of consciousness on the creativity of ideas one gets. I’ve gotten many of my personally most captivating thoughts either just about to wake up or fall asleep. This is, of course, not to speak of a collection of much much fuzzier moments…

Taking the notion of ‘consciousness being sleep guided by the senses’ seriously, what are the consequences? Instead of trying to deliberately come up with theories of creativity, should we rather concentrate on sleeping more, spending more time with the activities and people that enrich our lives and finding meaning in subtleties? It might be too radical to the industries of knowledge (management consulting among others) to start selling ‘insights emerging from laid-backedness’, but on a more personal level, should we start to be just a bit more greedy in this sense?

Also, in terms of much serious matters–such as ‘decision making’– should one more readily rely on one’s gut instead of seemingly-sophisticated-but-helplessly-bogus models?

In other words, ‘avant-garde art’ or ‘serious science’?!

When the ice cubes melt

Been gathering some steam for a while now… I think now it’s time to vent some of it!

It hardly comes as a surprise that Ultima Thule is perhaps not the most inspiring place to live. An interesting re-phrasing caught my eye this week, however. A British anthropologist (living in Oulu, uuh) depicted Finland being “a diluted Greenland”. What a neat, condensed way of putting it!

This is exactly how it is. Religiousness, alcoholism, traditional values, lack of critical thinking… Let’s just not start, the list is far too long and f*ed up to be completed here. I’d like to focus my attention to something else, namely the mass media.

I might be exaggerating, but I think it’s extremely hard to find information of the world in this place, in the local language. If I didn’t have UK and Middle East sources in my feeds, I would almost completely be at the mercy of mainstream media. And this is full of ‘news’ that are either foolish, irrelevant, or local to ridiculousness. Maybe we should start talking about ‘newslets’?

Then again, whose relevance? It may well be the case that laypeople just.don’t.care about South Waziristan military offensive, but when the extent reaches ignoring militaristic apartheid regimes defying UN reports, I think things are going a bit too far. To prove my point, I went to the 1st source of unbiased and objective journalism. As I’m writing this, the paper has the following topics under ‘news’ -> ‘foreign’ (not always the exact wording):

  1. Additional Finnish occupiers’ return from Afghanistan likely to be delayed
  2. Farmers burned tires in Paris
  3. French bees are distressed by the countryside

What? Is there really nothing more interesting happening in the world than bees and their ‘psychological’ symptoms?

I’m not a fan of imagined conspiracies, so it might just be due to ignorance, anti-intellectualism and lack of market. Which is, kind of, soothing, right?

Essence of message

As often said, the content of the message is only as good as its delivery. If one could always tell one’s thoughts with the same intensity and passion than one late Layne… The ignorant in a ‘hurry’ can ff to 5:00.

Just slightly mending the classic: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in…?”

Flares in the sky

Once again in the excellent Barbican… This time I saw ‘Waltz with Bashir’, an open account of a personal process told by a former soldier trying to remember what really happened during the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982.

The method of the movie earns some praise. An animation is always a daring solution, especially in handling controversial matters. On the other hand, it could be also easier this way, as shooting (interesting word in this context, right?) the film in a realist setting could be quite challenging. Where would one get the tanks and soldiers for the film, especially if the army and other security officials would see the film as detrimental to the national values?

Initially, my main interest in the movie was towards the historical events. This changed in the course of the film, however. Instead, I became intrigued by the psychoanalytic aspects of the movie. A person trying to remember happenings around a traumatic issue that are some twenty years old, raises major difficulties of the role of the individual and the constructiveness his own mind. What is false and what really happened? Perhaps most interestingly, the observer has to decide his stance towards himself, once he finally remembers.

Greeks and philologists

One can really spend a night after night in the vault of the excellent Gutenberg. One of Nietzsche’s not-so-well known writings, We Philologists, has a wonderful section (94) that uses a sort of ‘comparative analysis’ in assessing differences in views of knowledge, speech and life itself (with a slightly modified layout because of aesthetic considerations).


render homage to beauty (babblers and triflers),
develop the body (ugly-looking creatures),
speak clearly (stammerers),
are religious transfigurers of everyday occurrences (filthy pedants),
are listeners and observers (quibblers and scarecrows),
have an aptitude for the symbolical (unfitted for the symbolical),
are in full possession of their freedom as men (ardent slaves of the State),
can look innocently out into the world (Christians in disguise),
are the pessimists of thought (philistines).

If having to choose, which one would you be?

Economic thought

Following a presentation given by an economist can sometimes be hard. Not to mention the methodological constraints of their method of inquiry, only listening to them can raise serious issues of meaningfulness and direction of knowledge. To illustrate the idea of my point, imagine yourself in a seminar room in the midst of a presentation/discussion, where almost every other sentence starts with “suppose…”, “assume…”, “let’s…” or “imagine…”

There is nothing wrong with teasing the creativity of one’s audience, but if the whole argument is based on equilibria of one’s own assumptions, there might be some difficulty in seeing the empirical value of such claims. Not to mention the poverty of a view that embraces reductionism taken to the form of its additive fundamentalist extreme.

On the other hand, there must be something of value to the economic mode of thinking. They are, after all, handling the fundamentals of humankind. No matter where you go, from Knightsbridge to Brixton, or Vientiane to Tokyo, the people have one thing in common: buying and selling. This universal phenomenon of exchange is indeed something very fundamental. Or is it just being bought?