Tuesday, 20 March 2018

En français 5: Commentaire sur le livre Qu'appelle-t-on penser ? de Martin Heidegger

[Commentaire initialement publié sur Amazon.fr]

Oeuvre phare quoique négligée du grand corpus heideggerien

Qu'appelle-t-on penser ? est un cours que Heidegger dispensa dans les années cinquante, soit une bonne décennie après la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale. Hannah Arendt y vit une importante clé de voute dans l'oeuvre conséquente et riche de cet auteur-professeur-philosophe très controversé.

Contenant deux parties, la première partie s'attache à éclairer la pensée de Nietzsche, en particulier l'oeuvre Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra, et son cri: 
"Le désert croît : malheur à celui qui qui protège le désert !"
- Heidegger le précise, le désert dans le Sahara africain n'est qu'un type de désert.

Cette partie comporte une importante analyse du surhomme, déjà anticipée dans les années trente durant sa confrontation avec Nietzsche, ainsi que sa différence avec le dernier homme ; en réalité, le surhomme n'est pas un superman ou une extension de l'homme traditionnel mais simplement l'homme qui s'est affranchi de l'esprit de vengeance, "du ressentiment contre le temps et son 'il était'" qui diminue tout, qui ne cherche qu'à punir et qui cligne de l'oeil au lieu de penser.

Mon propre travail en tant que penseur m'a mené à l'observation suivante : le surhomme est l'homme qui va au-delà de l'animal raisonnable (du latin animal rationale), vers l'animal qui pense son habituation (voir Comment devenir maître du monde).

La deuxième partie du cours consiste en une fastidieuse et pénétrante analyse d'un fragment de Parménide - une connaissance du grec est ici préférable. Il s'agit de savoir en quoi la vérité peut-t-elle se manifester dans l'ère de la technique moderne (y compris cette page internet).

Conclusion : c'est une oeuvre riche et pleine d'innocence et de subtilité qui dit la même la chose, plus ou moins, que Etre et temps, mais en beaucoup moins de mots. 

Recommandé à tous amateurs de la pensée !

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Thought 604: Eighteen Ideas

Following is a collection of notes that I may or, more likely, may not develop into full-blown blog posts in the future.

(1) Art and comedy as providing solace from and an outlet for the human condition which is one that includes pain, predation and suffering but also a great deal of nonsense and absurdity for those with minds to hear and hearts to see.

(2) Political philosophy as a square circle (which was, in a way, Hannah Arendt's view)? Note that the square represents base consciousness in Freemasonry and some ancient (Pythagorean?) traditions as opposed to the symbol of godly perfection - which is to say self-containment (perfect comes from the Latin verb perfectare which means to bring to completion, to finish) - that is the circle. 

According to the symbolism suggested by the syntagma 'square circle' as predicated on the subject 'political philosophy', therefore, politics is a lower form of consciousness than philosophy. Political philosophy would therefore be a combination of or compromise between low and high forms of consciousness, whether for good or ill (e.g. Hitler and Heidegger). 

(3) Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's was a word attributed to Jesus in the New Testament - in other words, is it worth taking on the Roman Empire and the (illegitimate, i.e. coercive) power it represents (see Immorality of Rome and Empires and The Question Concerning Authority)? Perhaps this was simply advice in political realism on his part where the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against true spiritual reform.

(4) Money as a potentially friendly unit of exchange for finding out what is essential, including all that cannot be bought with money as opposed to mon-eye (see Money and Mon-eye). Indeed, coming to awareness about the nature of money, how it is created, required and enforced, as well as its occult aspects can be a powerful factor in ascending the Mountain of Enlightenment.

(5) Almost everything under the sun can be interpreted sexually or be given a sexual reading, which of course is an easy source for jokes as well as cheap psychoanalysis.

(6) It is worth considering the permanence and (relative) reliability afforded by modern technology - and the fact that, at least in this part of the world, everything seems to function most of the time - including as compared to the frailty, predation, victimisation and instability of much of human emotional life, both within the self and in relation to others we know (or don't know personally as in the case of much internet interaction).

(7) It is clear today - as evidenced by the ubiquity of the observation 'it's not what you know but who you know ' - that the false idols of career success as well as technological survival on the capitalist ladder are in fact entirely premised on social relations, giving credence to both Marx's understanding of the role of social class in economic relations and the concept of social capital offered by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.

(8) The charm of learning languages as an adult, including ones like Ancient Greek and Latin, is that they enable a re-disovering of childhood in terms of language acquisition, based on designation, repetition and comprehension, just as most of us were slowly taught to speak - and eventually write - our own mother tongue.

(9) One of the first and most important things to accept as a philosopher is that the vast majority aren't very philosophically minded and very often are baffled by, look down on, or even have a great deal of hostility towards philosophical pursuit and discourse. 

Perhaps the occult became occult, not so much for the purposes of a power differential between those in the know and those not in the know (which is Mark Passio's view), but because the many could not care less about philosophical wisdom and self-enlightenment and, oftentimes, want to hunt it down (which is closer to Manly P. Halls' view). 

Knowledge was therefore occulted not solely to do with thought polices throughout the ages - like the Catholic Church - coming from above but also polices coming from below. This again points to a tacit but unmistakeable collusion that can and does occur between the elite and the mob - who would gladly become order-followers (a phenomenon observed with regards to Nazi Germany in Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism and, under a different lens, in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange). 

(10) Philo-sophy as love of wisdom. However, in Kabbalah, wisdom is an active principle in so far as it is applied understanding or, as Mark Passio eloquently puts it, 'knowing what to do with what you have and what you know' (see Wisdom & Understanding). Therefore, if wisdom is fundamentally action, the love of wisdom - philosophy - can only mean the love of action. But what is action, i.e. true action? Perhaps action is simply the quality of being resolute.
"Resolute, Dasein is already acting." - Heidegger
What does the "quality of being resolute" entail? 
"Resoluteness brings the being of the there to the existence of its situation. [...] Resoluteness delineates the existential structure of the authentic potentiality-of-being attested to in conscience, that is, of wanting to have a conscience. [...] The call of conscience [...] calls forth to the situation. [...] Resoluteness is only the authenticity of care itself, cared for in care and possible as care."
Thus, action, properly and philosophically understood, is resoluteness, which is to say self-transparency that is grounded in and has the quality of care. 

And, as I wrote in The Meaning of Enlightenment, taking care of oneself and others is enlightenment.

(11) Self-help books on how to acquire wealth, friends, influence (i.e. capitalist success) as (fallaciously) applying a cooking-recipe book template.

(12) As Giorgio Agamben has observed (see, for instance, The Use of Bodies), self-knowledge is not so much about knowing an inner content than to do with the relation one keeps and maintains with oneself. He even philologically traces the root of the Greek word ἦθος, which became our ethics (see also How to Become Master of the World), to the Indo-European reflexive word se (on which see his essay Se: Hegel's Absolute and Heidegger's Ereignis, collected in Potentialities). 

(13) Nietzsche said somewhere that however objective the method and procedure he (or she) adopts, a thinker's work can amount to little more than biography. Etymologically, of course, bio-graphy can be understood widely as the writing of life and a qualified, properly human life at that, if we understand the distinction the Greeks made between βίος and ζωή (on which see Homo Sacer: On Sovereign Power and Bare Life and the concluding addendum of Five Sentences from The Thinker as Poet).

(14) That existence be a problem whose solution has eluded some of the best minds in history could almost be seen as self-evident. Let us cite the timeless quote by Sophocles
"Not to be born at all is best, far best that can befall, 
Next best, when born, with least delay
To trace the backward way."
This is also in large part, one could argue, due to the fact that existence is always already co-existence, living and sharing the planet with others
"L'enfer, c'est les autres."  
["Hell is other people."] 
Only a species-wide evolution in consciousness, however it come to manifestation, practically and contemplatively, could ultimately reduce the difficulties and tensions of co-existence (see Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (3): The Chakras and the Planets).

(15) The rule of the economic (οἰκονομική) - as etymologically and historically understood - over the entire spectrum of existence can only result in the (technological) enslavement and domestication of (wo)mankind since economic relations are traditionally premised on subjugation and exploitation - for the sake of freedom from labour in the Ancient World or for the sake of monetary profit in the Modern World - rather than properly political ones, understood in the Greek manner as the freedom to speak and move among one's equals (see Arendt's Was ist Politik?). 

(16) Negative interactions, including and especially those with close loved ones, often seem to outweigh many months or even years of seemingly positive interaction due to the acute effect of negative emotions on the psyche which lead to sometimes unforgivable outbursts of anger and things being said that shouldn't. 

Sometimes reconciliation is possible after negative interaction, occasionally leading to an even greater and healthier closeness than before, but I have been stung on several occasions by how potentially ruinous to a friendship or romantic relationship bad feeling giving voice to bad words really is, even as against a history of a majority of positive exchanges. But this might have to do with the latent and even subterranean dynamics at work (see Invisibility of Nature's Laws and Reading Early Signs in Relationships) or the fact that negative emotions are far more acute and dramatic than pleasant, neutral ones.

(17) Both statism and capitalism are religions or, at the least, can be read as fulfilling mankind's cultic and metaphysical needs, linked of course to material existence, including the ones for cruelty (see Ideology and Cruelty and The Cult of Capitalism), meaning and guidance. In fact, these days, both religions seem to combine in the form of the rule of State-enforced and State-supported capitalism (see the addendum to Capital as Head)

(18) In some ways the sociopathic caricature that is Patrick Bateman (as humorously portrayed in American Psycho) is more decent or, at least, less indecent than the reality of psychopaths, both unsuccessful (serial killers and criminals) and successful (banking, corporate, political elites). 

This is because he actually goes through the trouble, in the book and in the film, of confessing his true nature (e.g. "I'm simply not there", "my mask of sanity is about to slip") - to us the audience - as well as his ill deeds to his very own lawyer (e.g. "I guess I've killed maybe... 20 people. Maybe 40!", "I killed Paul Allen and I liked it. I cannot make myself any clearer"), with, as it turns out, absolutely no legal repercussions whatsoever ("This confession has meant... nothing."). 

How many real psychopaths - or sociopaths - actually confess their insanity and are prepared to take criminal responsibility for their misdeeds? Perhaps not a great many.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Thought 603: The Mulholland Drive Cowboy Scene

The David Lynch film Mulholland Drive contains a well-known scene between a film director Adam, played by Justin Theroux, who has resisted 'outside pressure' on who to cast for his upcoming film and whose professional and personal life has suffered as a result, and a man dressed in a cowboy outfit who speaks for that 'outside pressure', a seemingly dark network of Hollywood mafia types who possess great means of leverage, intimidation and control.

Here is the script from that scene:

A man's attitude... a man's attitude goes some ways toward how a man's life will be. Is that something you agree with?


Now... did you answer cause you thought that's what I wanted to hear or did you think about what I said and answer cause you truly believe that to be right?

I agree with what you said... truly.

What did I say?

That a man's attitude determines to a large extent how his life will be.

So since you agree I guess you could be a person who does not care about the good life.

How's that?

Well, just stop for a little second and think about it. Will ya do that for me?

Okay, I'm thinking.

No. You're too busying being a smart aleck to be thinkin'. Now I want you to think and quit bein' such a smart aleck. Can you do that for me?

Look... Where's this going? What do you want me to do?

There's sometimes a buggy. How many drivers does a buggy have?


So let's just say I'm driving this buggy and you fix your attitude and you can ride along with me.

After which point the cowboy speaks more threateningly in terms of the wrongs that have been and will be done to Adam if he persists in refusing to comply with the casting wishes of the aforedescribed Hollywood mob.

Anyway, as with much else in the film, this scene has struck me as working on a meta-level (μετά in Greek meaning 'with') in addition to fulfilling a basic function in the film's (exoteric and esoteric) plot developments.

Indeed, the 'cowboy' can be interpreted as voicing the director David Lynch's advice to the audience of the film (including potential critics): don't be smart alecks, fix your attitudes, use your brains and let me, the buggy driver, i.e. the film director who is in the driver's seat, take you for the ride of Mulholland Drive.

What is at stake, as the cowboy himself suggests to Adam, is nothing less than leading 'the good life', i.e. the thoughtful or philosophical life, and not letting the essential mystery (or absurdity - see The "Life Doesn't Make Sense" Paradox and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering) of existence, so keenly felt by Lynch and portrayed in his filmography, pass you by. 

[It is interesting to note that the advice is being given to a character who is a film director. We could read that as a serendipitous comment on film audiences - represented by Adam - who, in superficially critiquing films and being thoughtless 'smart alecks', act as though they're more qualified directors than the film director himself and have a keener understanding of life than the artist behind the film. This is especially the case with David Lynch's movies that are not of the crowd-pleasing, focus-group-engineered-entertainment variety but works of philosophy in their own right with, in my opinion, a high degree of what Walter Benjamin called truth-content.]

I am not necessarily suggesting that this meta-reading of the cowboy scene was a deliberate ploy by David Lynch to guide or tease, in a concealed way, the film's viewing audience but I think it is clear, especially with as vocally inarticulate yet artistically evocative a man as Lynch, that he is one for responding to inspirations and ideas that he may not always consciously grasp on an intellectual level but nonetheless subconsciously trust on an intuitive level, at least to enough of an extent as to capture them on camera and, further down the line, for armchair quarterbacks like myself to spot in their hours of idleness.

Addendum - In an essay entitled Genius collected in the book Profanations, Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben states
"Everything in us that is impersonal is genial"
including all aspects of our intimate physiological life, "in which what is most one's own is also strange and impersonal", be it blood circulation, sleeping cycles, urination, digestion, defecation, sexual arousal, orgasm and so on. 
"Genius is our life in so far as it does not belong to us"
and, for Agamben, the antithesis of Genius is Ego, with the effect that there is a tension to be juggled between the impersonal (genius) and the individual (ego) and
"the life that maintains the tension between the personal and the impersonal, between Ego and Genius, is called poetic."
How does this tangent on 'genius' and the 'poetic' relate to the cowboy scene in Mulholland Drive? Simply in the fact that Lynch, in responding to the sur-real (more than real) imagery and symbolic (dark) truths that address themselves to him and that he skilfully portrays in the way we are accustomed to see in his filmography, is merely conceding, i.e wholly giving way (from the Latin con, fully + cedo, to yield), to that which is impersonal in him: the Genius that generated and impersonally governs his life.

[In the aforementioned essay, Agamben highlights the etymological link between 'genius' and 'generation' and the fact that for the Romans
"Genius was the name used for the god who becomes each man's guardian at the moment of birth."]

Monday, 5 March 2018

Thought 602: Natured Nurture and Nurtured Nature

A question raised by the nature versus nurture debate, i.e. whether someone is formed more by internal genetic factors or by external environmental ones, is the extent to which nurture (external environment) is itself determined by nature (internal genetics), such as in our ability to speak or use tools, and, in turn, we may ponder the extent to which nature (internal genetics) herself results from nurture (external environment), such as might most glaringly occur in eugenicist breeding programmes. 

Of course these questions, thus formulated, lead to aporia because they give rise to an infinite regression. For example, the nature of our personality may, on top of certain genetic pre-dispositions passed on to us by our parents, be partly formed by how our parents 'nurtured', i.e. raised, us but was their particular brand of nurturing, i.e. parenting, which affected our psychological development, due to their 'nature', i.e. their internal genetic make-up as individuals, or the way they themselves were (and are) nurtured by environmental conditioning, including the way they were brought up as children? 

It seems ill-advised and simple-minded, at least from a philosophical standpoint, to regard nature and nurture as mutually excluding concepts when the 'being-there' of humans, i.e. their constituting a particular embodiment of Being and form of life, - which is to say 'nature' - is in-formed by environmental data (see In-FormationPeople as Information and Definitions of Consciousness) - which is to say 'nurture' -, which environmental data is the result of the nurtured nature, i.e. influenced and conditioned being, of humans who, so influenced or 'nurtured', naturally come to shape and transform environmental information in a certain way and be shaped and transformed by such information (see The "Life Doesn't Make Sense" Paradox and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering). 

To put things differently, we could say that it lies in the (genetic or internal) nature of human beings to (environmentally or externally) nurture, i.e. form informational and conditioning fields, as well as respond and adapt to such fields, i.e. be receptive to nurturing, with the effect that the (genetic or internal) nature of human beings is always already (environmentally or externally) nurtured, i.e. in-formed by informational and conditioning fields, including ones that affect procreation. Therefore we may say that nurture, both received and engendered, is 'natured', i.e. the result of natural necessity encoded in DNA, just as much as we may say that nature is 'nurtured', in so far as the aforementioned DNA-necessitated environmental nurture has an impact on genetic manifestation (as indirectly studied, I assume, by the science of 'epi-genetics'). 

In the end, however, if 'natured nurture', i.e. the view that nurture is necessitated by nature, places nature as the causa prima of the dialectic between nature and nurture, so too does the view of 'nurtured nature' according to which nature is, at least in part, and increasingly so through technological developments, shaped and formed by environmental factors, since, as we saw, nurture can be interpreted as responding to a prior demand of (genetic) nature that there be (environmental) nurturing, both manifested and received - unless, of course, this particular (genetic) demand be merely the fruit of a nurture (or environmentally)-influenced nature expressed through a modification in the genes - in which case priority should be given to environmental 'nurture' over genetic 'nature' as what comes first.

It is a case of either

(1) nature/genes → nurture/world → nature/genes → nurture/world →...

 (2) nurture/world → nature/genes → nurture/world → nature/genes →...

Alternatively both sequences might be correct if we take the view that the genetic evolution that evolved into homo sapiens came to affect the way the latter forms his world and impacts the earth - case (1) - and in turn this genetically-enabled world-formation (or cosmic ordering) and impact on the earth by humans - as expressed in the universe of modern technology - enables case (2) in the form of the deliberate manipulation of genetic material on the part of man, now become homo deus

Yet this too is a false dichotomy since we could just as much claim, regarding case (1), that 'genetic evolution' (nature) was itself shaped by environmental conditioning through 'natural selection' and 'adaptation' (nurture) or, conversely, regarding case (2), that (technological) genetic manipulation owes more to genetic evolution that expresses itself in man's technological life and (seeming) control over his destiny (see Technology & Control) than to the human-formed world of so-called nurture per se. 

Again, as in negative theology, the question of what came first and what has priority over what leads to an infinite regression that can only be halted by a posited (even though speculative and unknown) prima causa, such as God, Big-Bang-evolution, Annunaki Aliens or whatever influence one wishes to see lie behind anthropogenesis, the coming to be properly human of mankind (for the aliens angle see Origins of Man and Psychopathy and the Thing).

More to the point perhaps is the cognitive tension caused by words themselves since 'nature' is not only traditionally contrasted to 'nurture' - as in this blog post - but also to what is 'artificial', i.e. what more or less directly (as in tool-assisted craft) or indirectly (through computer-automated machines) results from man's handiwork. The temptation is then to equate nurture with the artificial world produced by man who, for his part, remains 'natural' in so far as he was conceived through heterosexual union, gestated in a woman's womb and given birth to by means of labour - as opposed to being technologically conjured, if not from scratch, then certainly from the bare rudiments of procreative 'material': a sperm and an egg (see Genesis and Sex). 

Yet labour too often entails 'artificial' intervention such as in the form of pain relief techniques or in the fact that it may have been medically induced for the safety of the mother (and the baby) or simply put an end to by means of the child being delivered with a caesarian rather than a passage through the vaginal canal. 

As with the 'nature v nurture' dialectic above, we quickly find that the 'natural v artificial' opposition is also extremely porous since the artifice of man can not only be read as inhering in the nature of man - and therefore as being 'natural'  - but that artificial objects are themselves made from 'resources' taken from the earth, at a greater or lesser degree of reified removal, and, in the case of industrial production but also human labour, by means of energy sources themselves having their origin in physical nature or φύσις (like petrol for motorcars or crops for humans), which sources, like artificial objects, vary in their closeness to or distance from what is 'naturally' given. 

[As an example, consider the gulf, to quote Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology, between a windmill that makes use of the wind's spontaneous blowing patterns as its means of motoring energy and a hydroelectric power plant that 'dams up', i.e. 'sets upon' and 'challenges forth', a whole river for the purpose of providing electricity to a neighbouring city.]

The nature v nurture dialectic appears to be, on final analysis, one mirroring an in-side v out-side opposition - with its attached question mark as regards 'the reality of the external world' in relation to a posited 'subject' (defined - and indeed atomised - by Descartes as 'the thinking I' or cogito) - as well as to an equally insoluble and somewhat unhelpful relational dichotomy between the (internally) pre-given - i.e. genetics - and the (externally) determined - i.e. environment - with all the attending aporias as to which precedes and rules over which and has the greater say in human development. 

P.S. The internal-external model used above regarding (genetic) nature v (environmental) nurture is one used, more or less consciously, by modern medical understanding in so far as the organism is here viewed as, among other traits, having an internal bio-logic of repeated ingestion and excretion that 'motorises' it and, on the other hand, an external, properly animal, existence within a given environment or 'world'. 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Thought 601: Medication v Medicine

There seems to have been a linguistic shift in the course of my lifetime from the word 'medicine' to the word 'medication'. 

To my mind, the word 'medicine' lays greater emphasis on the idea of cure than the word 'medication', which seems to semantically emphasise the idea of treatment (by way of pharmaceuticals) over and above that of healing remedy

That this semantic shift should have occurred is no mystery. It is of course in the commercial interest of corporate, pharmaceutical giants to 'treat' as opposed to 'heal' sufferers, because treatment by definition is ongoing and requires medical supervision, thereby translating into higher sales and a more regular flow of 'customers' than actual medicinal cures, not to mention preventative measures - such as a nutritious diet and regular physical exercise - designed to boost the immune system and that, being preventative, do not bring money in for the pharmaceutical industry.

In other words, sick people who require constant pharmaceutical (and indeed surgical) treatment are far more profitable than physically healthy individuals who, should they fall ill, have access to actual cures and remedies that make less money (since less artificial) over a shorter period of time (since more effective).

The emphasis on medication as opposed to medicine is particularly glaring in the field of mental health, since here it is all about 'treating' in the sense of 'pacifying' and 'managing' behavioural (and even thinking) patterns deemed threatening to the social order (as interpreted by corporate, economic and police government) as well as to the individual within that order, since that individual's life belongs to the body of the (biopolitical) Nation State (from the Latin natio which comes from the Latin verb nascere, to be born), which is to say, for all intents and purposes, 'The Economy'.   

Friday, 23 February 2018

Thought 600: Capital as Head

The word capital essentially comes from the Latin term caput, meaning head. 

This etymology is fairly obvious in, say, the syntagma 'capital city', since such a place is usually the head-quarters of a nation state's governmental officialdom (in other words, the head of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathanesque giant that comprises a territory's population - see the 'head' picture of my post God as Leviathan - The State as False God), or in the fact that a capital letter is at the start, i.e. head, of every written sentence.

The Latin meaning of 'capital' also survives when the latter intends something of vital importance, e.g. it is (of) capital (importance) to accept oneself. Indeed, our heads are biologically vital and govern our body's physiology by means of our brain, whence decapitation still being regarded as a fail-safe way to end a being's life, human or otherwise.

However, you will have guessed it, the meaning I am interested in for the purposes of this post is that of monetary capital. How does the Latin for head semantically survive in what I define as 'money designed to bring in more money' (see The Cult of Capitalism)?

There are actually very definite, prosaic and traceable historical reasons why caput should at length and after many socio-economic incarnations have come to designate money-making-money but being a creative (and, let's face it, idle) philosopher as opposed to a respectable and rigorous scholar (see Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Thinkers and Scholars as well as point (5) in Five Sentences from The Thinker as Poet) I am only going to look at the capital-as-head etymology philosophically.

Very simply, capital is at the head, i.e. source, of the economic system we call capitalism, but is also what is most capital, i.e. important and vital, in and to that system. In other words, the 'capital' of capital-ism is what is economically and philosophically most key

To make myself clearer, capital - understood in a philosophical-etymologic way - signifies that which is most dominant in our culture and what is most crucial to get to grips with. 

In that sense, and for our present purposes, we could read the title of Karl Marx's three-volume work Das Capital - or Capital in English - as stating "that which matters most" or, better, "that which is at the head" and, therefore, "that which lords it over us."

This is the reason why Marx is still so controversial and resisted after all this time: he was talking about and, moreover, critiquing, fundamentals, understood as the foundational phenomena that underpin the material conditions of both our biological and our social-psychological existences.

This is why the spectre of Marx - to borrow French philosopher Jacques Derrida's expression - refuses to leave this world for good despite or maybe even because of capital's total victory in and supremacy over the temporal realm. 

N.B. Some contemporary thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky, don't actually think our current economic set-up qualifies as capitalism per se, perhaps due to interventionist, non free-market policies employed by state governments that amount to 'corporate welfare' - with its transference of public money into private hands through outsourcing, privatisation and even direct funding - or when banks 'too big to fail' were bailed out after the 2008 'credit crunch' (see Credit: in Money We Trust) by means of taxed money (see The Problem of Taxation - Importance of Morality). 

No doubt the devil is in the detail, but perhaps the label 'capitalism' still applies in so far as our system is very largely - indeed, almost universally - based on money and, such being the case, requires the making or earning of (more) money to stay financially, technologically, biologically and indeed existentially afloat of that system-condition (money being sociologically and technologically enforced and required precisely as a condition of technological and social existence - see Belief and the Value of Money Meme, the addendum to The Shining: All Work and No Play and The Cult of Capitalism), with the effect that money-making-money, i.e. capital, takes on a life of its own, whether for the benefit of mankind or to its detriment (see Truthfulness and Money). 

Addendum - The double meaning of head as what comes first - as in the expression 'head title' or 'header' - and what commands - as in 'head chef' or 'head teacher' - is reminiscent of the Greek term ἀρχή which signifies both beginning - Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος ("In the beginning was the word") - and commandment, the sense of which is preserved in words like mon-archy, rule by one, democracy, rule by the people, and an-archy, without rule. 

So right there in the word 'capital', etymologically understood as 'head' or 'that which is at the head', we find the combined meaning of commandment and beginning. As source and ruler of that which flows from it, which in capital-ism is almost everything, capital is the correctly designated ἄρχων of the Modern World.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Thought 599: Mystery Followed by Liberation: the Flying Kite in Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins was a novel before being turned into a film. I mention this because it is now accepted by literary historiography, at least according to the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in his collection of short essays The Fire and the Tale, that the novel derives from mystery in the sense that there was a 'genetic link' between the pagan mysteries and the ancient novel, such as Apuleius' Metamorphosis

He states,
"This nexus is manifested by the fact that, exactly like in mysteries, we see in novels an individual life that is connected with a divine or in any case superhuman element, whereby the events, episodes, and vicissitudes of a human existence acquire a meaning that overcomes them and constitutes them as mystery. Just like the initiated [e.g. at the rites of Eleusis that evoked the abduction by Hades of the maiden (Κόρη) Persophone who would only reappear in the Spring] penetrated mystery and found in it the hope of having his life saved, so the reader, following the series of situations and events that the novel weaves pitifully or ferociously around its character, somehow participates in his destiny and, at any rate, introduces his own existence to the sphere of mystery."
This to say that in Mary Poppins - at least in the film version since I have shamefully not read the novel(s) -  the character whose destiny is at stake is none other than Mr Banks (see Mr Banks Saying Thank You), and the entire story can be interpreted as his own salvation-redemption from, to use Heidegger's formulation, "the trivial surface of his conventional nature" (as showcased by the double-meaning of the title of a recent film on P.L. Travers' creative debacles with Disney, Saving Mr Banks).

In light of this, the kite in the film can be read as symbolising Mr Banks' soul. The film starts with the kite being lost - which is the state Mr Banks is in without realising it - by his children and their asking him to build a better one which he refuses until the very end, after he has gone through the ordeals of his parental, disciplinarian authority being subtly undermined by Poppins, the catastrophic 'run on the bank' that resulted from her 'tricking' him to take Jane and Michael to his workplace and his later humiliating dismissal by the bank's management.

The fact that, in the film at least, the story ends with Mr Banks mending and flying the kite with his children - as immortalised by the wonderful Sherman (Shaman) Brothers' song Let's Go Fly A Kite - showcases that Mr Banks' heart has been both healed and liberated (see Importance of the Heart) and he has once again become a free spirit in touch with his inner child and, indeed, his own children.

The flying kite at the end therefore marks the end of the mystery initiation, as covertly orchestrated by the nanny - and, more to the point, witch - Mary Poppins who came into Mr Banks' employ, with the effect that the alchemical transformation from base-metal capitalist conformity (it is no accident Mr Banks is a finance employee) to the gold reality of the liberated mind which is rich-in-spirit has been completed.

(Note how Mr Banks' becomes 'saved' when he understands the true meaning of the tuppence, which is that money is not real, only a proxy for the spiritual wealth of mon-eye, i.e. third eye enlightenment.)

In other words, the story of Mary Poppins is a perfect example of the survival of the mystery traditions in modern fiction, where both we the readers and the character himself are initiated and (hopefully) brought to a higher state of awareness through the succession of symbolic events as portrayed by the 'danced evocation' (Agamben's preferred definition of the Greek term μυστήριον which is usually translated as 'secret rite or doctrine') of the novel and, indeed, film. 

Addendum - It is interesting to note that after Mr Banks has been laid off by his employers and has not returned home or been seen all night, his domestic housemaids and wife - as well as a police bobby - fear the worst, i.e. that he has had a breakdown, gone completely doolally or even committed suicide. This detail in the plot shows how authentic liberation and enlightenment are often mistaken for symptoms of 'madness' (or 'mental illness') for the simple reason that a mind liberated from societal conventionality and economic government - which is to say mind control (gubernare + mens, mentis) - can only be read as abnormal and even threatening by those who are still spiritually enslaved by the control system. At the end of another mystery-initiation film that was also based on a novel, The Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy, finally 'awakes' to reality after her initiation and coming to enlightenment in the magical land of Oz but her tale is merely laughed at by her close friends and family who dismiss it as a mere 'dream' (see Mark Passio's video'ed presentation entitled Everything I Needed to Know in Life, I Learned by Watching the Wizard of Oz).

[To be sure, the possibility of the false enlightenment of euphoric mania followed by deep melancholia (today referred to with utmost ugliness and a lack poetry as 'bipolar disorder') is represented by the story arc of the tea party with Uncle Albert who goes from floating towards the ceiling with glee and merriment to being deflated by a story involving a cat dying - and yet death is part and parcel of the reality of life. That is to say, Uncle Albert's merriment followed by depression is symptomatic not of the true happiness of the enlightened individual at one with his true self - as embodied by George Banks at the end of the film - but the nervous flight into frivolous laughter and, indeed, reality-bending pathology of one still journeying through and climbing up the lower rungs of consciousness.]

Addendum 2 - Early-day, suffragette feminism is portrayed with humour (or, as some would rapidly suggest, white male mockery in the form of the film's funders and makers) in the character of George Banks' wife, played by Glynis Johns, who wants to liberate womankind but systematically defers to and fears her husband's authority.

As with the sequence that takes place in the bank in which the song Fidelity Fiduciary Bank beautifully describes the power and reach of (pre-WWI) colonialist capital in a way that recalls how finance works today (note the lyric "You'll achieve that sense of stature [...] that established credit now commands" and see Credit: in Money We Trust) - and in that sense helping us draw a parallel that still pertains between the financial capitalism (as distinguished from mercantile or industrial capitalism - see Jobs and Money) of the early twentieth century and that of the early twenty first century - we can see that politically sensitive topics pertaining to social justice (in the shape of equality between the sexes) and the continued elephant-in-the-room of Capital endure, over half a century after the film's release in 1964.

My ex step-father, himself from a modest, working class background, always resented how the movie Mary Poppins portrayed the British labouring classes in the form of happy-go-lucky chimney sweeps and especially in the character of the drifter, vagrant, self-employed, jack-of-all-trades bohemian Bert (Al-bert's nephew), played by Dick Van Dyke - together with his (in)famous Hollywood attempt at a cockney accent. 

I believe he felt the film not only watered down the plight of the exploited classes by making them seem joyful and docile ("as lucky as can be" as per the lyrics of the song Chim Chim Che-ree and it is worth noting that all the chimney sweeps meekly salute and shake the hand of the 'esteemed', wealthy, upper class Mr Banks) but also perpetuates dominant (at the time and, arguably, still now) class ideology and class representations, with the only corrective to capitalist exploitation being good-old 'Christian charity', as preached by Julie Andrews in the tear-jerking song Feed the Birds

Regarding the good fortune of the lower classes as seen through the eyes of Bert, here are telling lyrics taken from the Oscar-winning song Chim Chim Che-ree:

"Now as the ladder of life
'As been strung
You may think a sweep's
On the bottommost rung

Though I spend me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this 'ole wide world
There's no 'appier bloke."

Clearly the spectre of Marx (to quote the title of a book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida) continues to refuse to (conveniently) go away for the purposes of the total and totalitarian victory of capital - and the realm of what the aforementioned Agamben calls οἰκονομία - and its domination not only over labour but the entire spectrum of earthly, worldly existence (see The Cult of Capitalism and Economy v Morality). 

This cynical reading of the film isn't helped by the fact Mr Banks is re-employed by the bank on the very first day of his liberation! In other words, the principle of business as usual (see Business is Business) as well as the dynamics of class structure still prevail, regardless of personal spiritual awakening, mystery initiation or level of consciousness: capital - in pure Walter Disney fashion - is still king!

[It is interesting to note that in that very flying-kites scene where Mr Dawes-son re-employs George Banks as a partner in the bank, the former refers to the joke involving "the man with a wooden leg named Smith" that made his father, the older Mr Dawes, die with laughter, as a 'capital' bit of humour. This choice of word in the script seems almost too synchronistic, not to say synchro-mystic.]

Addendum 3 - Returning to the 'mystery' element of Mary Poppins, the dog Andrew of course plays a pivotal, guiding role in the story's - and indeed mystery's - unfolding which comes as little surprise given the fact that the dog - who in occult terms symbolises 'the elemental forces of nature' - has that very function in the tradition of Tarot as witnessed by that animal's depiction in the 'Fool' card which, in that 'Book of Life' (Tarot as liber vitae, i.e. 'book of life' but also as liber vita, 'free life'), signifies the stepping off the cliff, the leap of faith (or as Heidegger would say 'the leap into thinking') and the beginning of the long, hard but ultimately salutary journey up the Mountain of Enlightenment.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Thought 598: The "Life Doesn't Make Sense" Paradox and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering

On Google, the following quote is attributed to David Lynch:
"I don't think that people accept that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."
In typical human, i.e. inconsistent, fashion, David Lynch is also quoted online as having stated the opposite
"I don't know why people expect art to make sense. They accept the fact that life doesn't make sense."
So we are left to try and make sense of the idea that people accept and do not accept that 'life doesn't make sense'. 

Regardless of the irony or, as Lynch would have it, absurdity of the above
["I don't like the word ironic. I like the word absurdity, and I don't really understand the word 'irony' too much. The irony comes when you try to verbalise the absurd."]
the glaringly obvious paradox I wish to raise (in Greek παρά-δοξος precisely suggests in its morphology what is contrary, παρά, to expectation or opinion, δόξα, and therefore is a key ingredient of philosophical γνῶσις which seeks to distinguish itself from received or conventional wisdom) is that the sentence
"life doesn't make sense"
, in its semiotic-semantic marriage (i.e. in the combined effect of the words as written - the semiotic aspect - and what they intend in their meaning - the semantic aspect) as well as its subject- ("life") predicate ("doesn't make sense") couplet, is precisely giving meaning and order to that which it claims to be without meaning and order: the word "life".

This, if nothing else, shows the true versatility and flexibility of language which allows for a great degree of internal contradiction in that, as we can see, it can claim something ("life doesn't make sense") and at the same time state, i.e. en-act in speech, the opposite ("life doesn't make sense" as a statement is readily understood and makes sense of "life", both the word and what we intend by the word). 

[Indeed, with something probably similar in mind, Heidegger went so far as to write, in English translation (see the thought-poem The Thinker as Poet collected in Poetry, Language, Thought and discussed in my post Five Sentences from the Thinker as Poet),
"What is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said." (my italics)]
With this example, we can see the veracity of one of the many salient observations on language offered by the Italian thinker Giorgio Agamben, namely that it is not easy for language to refer to something (e.g. "life") and simultaneously refer to the fact of its own referring (i.e. the word life), i.e. its own power of signification, other than through a paraphrase (e.g. "life, both the thing and the word, doesn't make sense", the predicate "doesn't make sense" also constituting a signified intention that does not explicitly refer to itself as signifier) or quotation marks, either written down or gestured with the hands. 

But more existentially relevant perhaps is the insight that I've mentioned elsewhere (see The Warfare of Standpoints - Truth as Necessary Error - Differently Formed Views as well as the last paragraphs of the addendum to Capitalism v Conspiracy) that as human beings we cannot help but order the world in some way, whether through thought, speech, habit, activity or creativity, even when 'mentally ill' - psychosis is also a world ordering even though a 'de-ranged', unhelpful one - or labouring under the ubiquitous belief that our understanding is purely based in and co-incides or at least corresponds - more or less completely - with factual reality (as conveyed and mediated by language, technology, people and our very own bodily consciousness - see Definitions of Consciousness). 

Indeed, this very blog post is an ordering of its own, however rooted in a desire for 'objective' understanding it purports to be, no doubt serving my own intellectual and instinctive needs as one breathing, sentient, embodied (human) being among billions. 

Addendum - The Greek word for order was κόσμος from the verb κοσμέω, to order or arrange but also, according to the Greek-English Lexicon Liddell & Scott, to dispose, order, rule and, more metaphorically, to embellish and adorn (which last etymology finds its materialist, commercial expression in the 'cosmetics' industry). 

It seems that right in the Greek word for order, there is a semantic overflow from self-ordering, in all the ways we described in the main text of the blog post above, to political ordering understood as the organisation of power in a polity (see Plato's Republic as Psychological Treatise).

[Of course, in Was ist Politik?, the celebrated and reviled political theorist Hannah Arendt showed that, for the Greeks, politics was about speaking and moving among one's equals in the public arena and the power relations over women and slaves in the domestic sphere of the οἶκος and that pertained between city states, being all based on domination and necessity, were pre or indeed infra-political, i.e. both a condition of and a threat to the freedom of the Greek male citizen in his public existence.] 

The much-touted and much-maligned conspiracy of a global 'new world order' is hardly as far fetched or as radical as it sounds from this point of view; all new technology, information, worldview, social movement, war, media scandal, movie, scientific discovery, YouTube video, legislation and indeed blog post is, by its very being introduced into the world, contributing to the world ordering, i.e. cosmifying, process of the planet which has now become globified and globalised to the nth degree through modern IT communications and the impact of humans on their environment (as regards the ordering effect of the internet itself see The Internet as Apocalyptic Motor and God as Leviathan - The State as False God).

[In this sense, Heidegger's formulation regarding modern technology according to which it is a mode of revealing Being, i.e. an ordering process, that results in the total "orderability of the orderable", including, fatefully, 'human resources', is a rich one because it shows technology to be an ordering that does not just result in a given 'order' that more or less affects the planet and the beings who inhabit it but ultimately results in a "humanity under control" scenario where mankind becomes as exploited and ordered about as Mother Nature herself - a dystopian scenario which has been portrayed, inter alia, in many science fiction movies and that I highlighted in Computed by Computers. The death camp appears in this light as the extreme form of the technological domination of nature and animals, e.g. in factory farming, coming to bear on homo sapiens himself.]

In defiance of the terrible finality of the 'new world order' syntagma, whether in its conspiratorial, capitalist (see The Cult of Capitalism) or technological understanding,  we should perhaps heed the words of French novelist Marcel Proust, uttered I believe in the penultimate instalment of his long novel, In Search of Lost Time, which state
"the creation of the world did not occur at the beginning of time. It occurs every day."
Addendum 2 - I should add that cosmos does have a connotation, in modern parlance, of the stars and planets and the universe of outer space, all of which, through astrology, time-keeping and, indeed, astro-theology (see Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (1): Christianity), have served to provide a profoundly effective and long-lasting order, i.e. κόσμος, for mankind. The genius of the Philadelphia-based researcher Mark Passio is, among other things, to have brought to common awareness the rich cosmifying power of ancient symbolism, which he dates back to ancient antiquity, and that has survived in traditions like Kabbalah, Tarot and Freemasonry in both their dark (sorcery) and light (magic) aspects and their offshoots in modern hierarchies - financial, corporate and governmental - and everyday life. 

Whether it be the trials of 'cosmic abandonment' or the wonders of 'cosmic consciousness' (see Cosmos as my God and Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (3): The Chakras and the Planets), I think that, with some insight and given all the above, we need not worry too much about the supposed meaninglessness and purposeless of human existence. For all human beings, in so far as they are, are cosmifying, i.e. ordering and therefore meaning-giving, beings partaking of that which makes meaning possible at all (i.e. truth - see Lathoron, A Philosophical Dialogue), both within themselves as conscious organisms and without themselves as actors in the world, even if only unconsciously and ineffectually. 

Addendum 3 - I now recollect regarding the alleged difficulty mentioned above of language both to refer to things and simultaneously refer to itself as referring to those things, that Agamben says something a little different. Language is that which cannot help but refer to some semantic, meaningful content that goes beyond the pure semiotic spelling or sound of the word. In language (and not only in language), sign and sound become meaningful - through what we call consciousness (see Definitions of Consciousness).  

Yet this too pinpoints the meaningful ordering that we give to and derive from things, almost unconsciously and without effort. If (philosophical) truth truly is that which makes meaning possible and that which is suggested by the possible meaning of a word (see Lathoron, a Philosophical Dialogue), then the meaning-giving, cosmifying human being we have described in this post partakes, more or less consciously, with that that: Being.