Public Journal:

One of the most important questions for the intellectually and creatively curious (especially since the advent of NAZI Germany (has been what it is that will drive some people to seek out their own oppression. This is especially pertinent in America where many cling to the republican platform. We basically have a lot of people who, for all their tight-fisted bravado and claims to be the true rebels, see the only solution to our problems in dropping to our knees and sucking the dick of every rich man that comes along. And I’m sorry if that seems crude and a little harsh; but it is pretty much what every policy they offer amounts to. This includes Trump who claims he will undermine free trade agreements, but only offers the solution of tax-breaks for corporations and deregulation. Once again, the same thing: maybe if we suck their dicks a little harder, maybe they’ll give us more of what we want. But all it really amounts to is reducing America to the same state as other third world countries so that we’ll be more attractive to them.

My answer to the question has thus far been the evolutionary competitive mode that has been with all organisms from the beginning which eventually evolved to a cooperative mode and that now it is a matter of making the complete leap to the cooperative mode. In other words, what we’re dealing with, as concerns the republican platform, is an evolutionary backlash that refuses to make the leap from the competitive to the cooperative evolutionary mode.

But in a kind of Deleuzian engagement, I saw something in the HBO series West World that brought in a little more depth and subtlety. In it, Anthony Hopkin’s character was describing an ex-partner of his who took on the extra ambition of actually trying to create consciousness. He drew up a pyramid which, at one level, consisted of self interest. This was kind of a revelation for me in that I realized how deeply embedded self interest is in the very phenomenon of consciousness. It basically goes back to a debate me and some friends had on LSD back in the 90’s: whether insects had a sense of self. I argued that they did. I based this on the recognition that the very notion of self preservation required that the organism has to have some sense of what it is they are trying to preserve. If the more mechanistic view was true, then the organism would only kick into self preservation mode when the neural system was broached. But insects anticipate threats to their self preservation. I mean if that weren’t the case, it would be a lot easier to swat flies.

Now imagine how this self preservation (self interested mode (and anticipatory subsystem must be working in the republican sensibility.
In terms of Deleuze and Guatarri’s rhizomatic epistemological system, we can see its advantage over the aborescent in some very practical and accessible ways. Take, for instance, the police shootings of African Americans in American ghettoes. Under the old aborescent model, there is a tendency to look for first causes: racism, poverty, lack of monitoring of police activities, etc., etc… And let us not forgot the most obtuse and insidious argument: the laziness of African Americans and their refusal to “get a job”. But under the rhizomatic model, we see, rather, a complex feedback loop. We have a group of people in a desperate situation who, in response, act more desperately thereby putting police officers in dangerous situations which reinforce whatever racist tendencies they may have and thereby cause them to over-react which puts African Americans in an even more desperate situation to which they react and so on and so on.

Of course, the natural human tendency towards capture leads to over simplified root causes (the arborescent (on both sides: systemic racism on the side of African Americans (which can’t be denied (and the propensity towards desperate behavior on the part of African Americans in distressed environments for white cops (which can’t be denied.

And we see the same dynamic at work with a lot of other things such as Islamic terrorism.

Theory, like most soft sciences or soft expressions of the academic/god’s-eye perspective (social sciences: psychology, sociology, History, etc. (has a unique advantage in that, like science but unlike science, they can explore the molecular aspects of the human experience (the human experience being, for the most part, being off limits to science due to the subjective nature of it (while not being beholden to the molar aspect of it as the arts are. Literature, for instance, may attempt to approach the complexity (the molecular (of the human experience, but it is always returned to molar means of getting there –that is in order to resonate with and seduce the reader.

To approach this from a different angle, we who embrace theory tend to demean the molar superficiality of political rhetoric (which is a kind of literature. But how effective would it be (language, from a pragmatic perspective, being a tool that gets things done (were we to tailor it to the more molecular understanding of theory? Say, for instance, a politician were to argue that there were certain things they wanted to do but, given the complexities of the system they were attempting to gain access to, there was no way of knowing they could actually achieve them. How far would they get in the average electoral process?

Such a molecular approach would be as effective as a comedian backtracking after every punch line.

Poetry, even, may point to the molecular, but must do so by molar means. It’s just the way of language.

Last night, in the not-so-organized stream-of-consciousness way I tend to work, I came across a variation (a stretch if you will (on one of those riffs that, via natural selection, has stuck with me for some time: the relationship between facts, data, and truths. It’s a subtle distinction, but it goes a long way towards distinguishing data from a fact, a problem that has become all too prevalent these days. Plus that, it allows me to jam in my comfort zone while working beyond it:

Facts are basically things we can hardly disagree on. They’re just there. For instance, while I may have written this post at a past point for you, it is still a fact. I mean how could you deny it given that you are reading it right now? And like most facts, if we were standing together and looking at it, we could both agree that it is a fact much as, if we were standing before cat on a mat and one of us said “There is a cat on a mat”, we could both agree that what had been described was a “brute fact” to put it in Searle’s terms.

Where it gets a little more complex is data in that data is a collection of individual facts MEANT (not destine (to give us a general understanding of how individual facts are working together. For instance, when surveys are taken, there are always the individual facts of how individuals answered the surveyors questions. The problem with Data is that it is always as interesting for the facts it leaves out as those it includes. For instance, note the Truman/Dewey election in which surveys showed Dewey winning by a landslide. The problem was the individual facts based on phone interviews which generally consisted of people wealthy enough to own phones and who generally voted Republican. On top of that, we have to look at the distinction between formal data (which I described above (and informal data which consists of the facts of individual experiences –experiences always being facts in themselves. But we only need look to racism to understand the folly that informal data is vulnerable to. This would consist of the argument:

“All black people I have met tend to be pushy. Therefore, all black people are pushy.”

And this offers us a good segue into the relationship between data (formal and informal (and truths. The important thing to understand here is that I am using Rorty’s pragmatic understanding of truth (that which seems sufficiently justified (while departing from his more optimistic understanding of it. My point here is that, like the relationship between data and facts, truths are a cumulative effect of data. And I would hardly have to elaborate on the precarious nature of truth here –that is as I’m describing it.

That done, the stretch I arrived at last night involved a clarification of the difference between facts and data. Facts just are. There is no way of getting around them. They are, as Searle describes them: brute facts. Data, on the other hand, must strictly deal with probability: these many people told us on the phone that they will vote for Dewey, therefore Dewey will LIKELY win. However, there is a kind working data that must lead to a truth that opens my system up to a kind of anomaly: the tautology. Think, for instance, of the argument: all bachelors are single. One can hardly get around it. Still, this doesn’t make data a fact. The risk here is that some, through a kind of intellectual razzle-dazzle, may attempt to make data seem like it is so.

Faced with, at least, four years of Trump, and having knowledge of the insidious tactics he used to get there, we might take some consolation and hope in the complexity of human nature, especially as concerns the distance between fancy and reality that was at play in his campaign.

I would go back to a true believer who stood outside of a Trump rally and, in front of a reporter, waxed romantically about a day when you could go to the border, buy a 25$ permit, and get 50$ for each confirmed kill. He then retracted by saying he was just being “ironic”. And we should put in mind here that this suggested that he recognized that his statement was not socially acceptable: the very source of of the superego, This, of course, does not absolve him of the pleasure he seemed to take from that particular fantasy. And I would also note the connection between what people fancy and what they will eventually do. For instance, if you are in love with someone who constantly expresses a deep seated identification with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”, your best bet, likely, is to get the fuck out of Dodge.

Still, breaking someone’s heart is something quite different than killing them. So you have to ask if that individual outside of the Trump rally, appealing to fancy and the radical strictly for the sake of radical, would, put in the situation he fantasized about, actually be willing to shoot Mexicans trying to cross the border –that is even at 50$ a head. Note, for instance, the difference between the fancy involved in listening to a hardcore rap song and actually engaging in the behavior it describes.

And I think we can apply this same understanding to Trump who, throughout his campaign, was like a beer-table demagogue spouting out his “if I were dictator for a year” wish list with the reinforcement of others around the table. And as Coleridge argued: it’s alright to build castles in the sky; the idea is to build foundations under them. We can only hope that Trump builds foundations under those castles that involve the American worker while actually facing the reality, as compared to his fancies, of those he would choose to exclude from his personal and phantasmal utopia.

Now that I have gotten my Trump rant out of my system (which I fear will be a daily thing (I want to address a more philosophical issue: one that passed through my stream of consciousness (and which I caught like a true fisherman (that lies at the core of my process.

What came to me (as if out of nowhere (was an issue with an argument that hardcore materialists like to make concerning the existence of mind: the Casper the Ghost analogy. Their argument is that, since Casper can pass through walls without problem, it would be a contradiction to act as if Casper could have any real effect on the material world. The analogy, of course, is that the mind (being of such ghostly stuff (would have no way of affecting the body. But what is conveniently left out of the argument is the issue of “command”. For instance, if a ghost with less humility than Casper could command a knife to fly through the air and stab you in the heart, there would be a very real cause and effect relationship between the ghostly stuff and the material.

And can’t we make the same argument for the relationship between the mind and the body? While the mind may not directly affect what the body does, it can still issue commands that the body is too dumb to defy. Think, for instance, of suicide. The body, in an unthinking way, wants to keep going. Still, the mind (in its complexity) can work in ways that will make the body (command it) to work in ways that work against its own self interest.

Here we need to turn to the computer analogy as concerns the mind/brain relationship: that between hardware and software. While software may not actually change the physical nature of the hardware, it can change the way it works.

“Some of the people I met in grad school with supposedly the highest IQ’s were without a doubt some of the dumbest people I have ever met.” –Lewis Woodford​

Yes, Lewis: all one would have to do is look at what goes on among the elite (the decision makers: most of which have either masters or PhDs (to see how clueless such people can be. Or as I like to joke: some people can be intellect abundant while being wisdom deficit. Hardcore materialists and libertarian economists often fit that bill to me. Plus that, there has been research that has shown that the ability to predict things does not correlate with education or knowledge. This is because more intellectual people tend to commit more to their given systems –their egos being as invested in them as they are. And make no mistake about it: I, myself, have embraced the view you are offering.

That said, I would ask you to consider a more complex model that addresses the issue you are presenting via a book I have been talking about lately, Arthur Lupia’s Uniformed: Why People Know so Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It. It’s basically a pedagogical manifesto with hard science behind it. And I must confess from the start that my embrace of it is a blatant exercise of confirmation bias. But the main thing I found useful was his model of information, knowledge, and competence.

Information is our stock and trade here in that it is the ONLY thing we, or anyone else, have to offer. And we offer information in the hope of affecting the knowledge of other individuals: the cumulative effect of the information the individual, via the limits of working memory, chooses to assimilate –that is from a variety of sources of information besides us.

But it is in the domain of competence that we get at the complexity of your point. Competence is the manner in which one’s body of knowledge (that is built on the information they have (is applied to a given and valued task. And it is Lupia’s concept of Competence which was a bit of revelation for me in that it proves more useful, that is in terms of complexity and subtlety, than that of intellect which is what you are addressing. (And please do not take this as condescending or trying to “correct” you! I am just offering another model.) What I would suggest is that you are, as we all often do, conflating intelligence (which is hierarchical in nature (with competence: which is democratic in nature. I would argue that what you see as a lack of intellect in people is actually a lack of competence in tasks you value.

And this is where my confirmation bias (and a little ego stroking (forgive me if you will! (comes into it. To me, there are 3 means by which we collect information in order to become the intelligent creatures we think ourselves to be: the personal anecdotal (that which we experience ourselves), the social (that which we get via others such as friends, artists, or journalists), and the academic or god’s-eye view which we achieve through traditionally established methods: technologies. Now the popular doxa would support the hierarchical/ vertical/Platonic model in which the academic stands at the top of the INTELLECTUAL ladder –like some corporate hierarchy or something. My position, however, is that the relationship between the three is horizontal with a slight upward lean towards the academic. This is because, in terms of competence, intellect is always relative to a given task an individual finds themselves faced with. You could, for instance, be a quantum physicist but still look like an idiot in front of the small town mechanic in the town your car broke down in. For myself (that is with all the knowledge I have accumulated), if I were dropped into a ghetto and found myself with a thug that was willing to get me out of it, that thug would always be the most competent and knowledgeable person in my space.

“…and we have the massive mouth in the White House of your beautiful country and europe in ´lets play the 1930’s again… …” –David John

Having, myself, experienced the five stages of grief post Trump’s election, I find myself returning to where I started: denial. The latest manifestation has been, having seen Trump act a little more “presidential”, maybe this will all go like a typical Republican presidency, that which I have gotten through before. I have to take pause before becoming an alarmist.

But from what I have seen lately, David John is right: we are facing something that, in its frenzied nature, may turn out to be every bit as traumatic as what happened in the 30’s. And it’s not just Trump. It is, rather, the feedback loop he is playing a part in. Note, for instance, the rush to deregulation going on in Capitol Hill, much of which could end up creating irreparable damage such as allowing coal miners to dump coal waste in rivers and streams. We have Paul Ryan (Trump’s new lapdog (rubbing his little rat paws in hopes of privatizing Social Security and Medicare (basically give stockbrokers control of our retirement money to risk on the market (which Trump said he wouldn’t do. But he also said he wouldn’t backtrack on policies implemented by Obama on transgender people. And we see how that went.

Everyone acted as if “well, what harm could he do?” And we can take some consolation in seeing those who supported him (either directly or indirectly through indifference or the pop cynicism of not supporting Hillary (get their just deserts for failing to read the small print. The so-called alienated white middle class male is really going to get it up the ass when they realize that Trump’s (that is in the context of the Republican platform (solution to bringing manufacturing jobs back to America has always been the typical Republican one: sucking the dick of the rich a little harder in the hope they’ll give us more of what we want. This will basically find expression in tax cuts and deregulation which pretty much amounts to reducing America to the same labor and environmental standards as most third world shitholes.

As for the 52% of the Millennials that, in their pseudo-enlightened pop cynicism, failed to vote for Hillary: I recently saw something that suggested that Trump is about to intensify enforcement of pot laws. And as I recall, he said that pot was not a gateway drug. In other words, during the campaign, he took a casual attitude towards it. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Trump (as well as many so-called “state’s rights” and “small government” repugs (go after Colorado within the next couple of years.

For myself, the consolation will come from letting the many republicans I encounter (and have listened to (actually see the fascist potential of the republican platform they embrace. We can only hope that we all come to our senses, set aside the misdirects, and recognize the problem for what it really is: the fact that a handful of people are feasting at the table and expecting the rest of us to fight for the crumbs. And hopefully we’ll do it before it’s too late.

Look, nobody voted for that cunt Hillary because we were all afraid she’d not only ban our guns and everything else, but also nuke us to death.

Trump is the garbage radiation we have to clean up after the shitshow debacle.

Actually, all 5 political parties are insane. Its all rigged.

“I think you should choose a grad program that has reasonable success of placing their PhDs in gainful employment. Think about what you want to spend your time researching for your dissertation, about what languages you’ve learned and how they mesh with the content of each degree. Choose a path that will make you a versatile instructor and give you a good foundation for the research you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. As someone who comes from a predominately analytic background, I suggest reading Fashionable Nonsense by Sokal and Bricmont (if you want to borrow the copy from my bookshelf, you are more than welcome) just to get an idea of where post-modernism goes wrong.” –Khristy

“Thanks for the advice. I’d be happy to borrow your book sometime.” –Brandon

Okay Brandon. I mean it’s all fuel for the fire. And I would encourage you to read anything you might find useful: both in the positive sense of what you can adopt and in the negative sense of what you can add to your process by rejecting the other. But I would like to offer a continental counterpoint (not reject or dismiss (to Khristy’s analytic lean, especially as concerns Sokal and Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense. And I would start by quoting Heather De Lancett’s impressive point:

“No jobs in Continental. No soul in Analytic. Just a practical perspective.”

First of all, I will admit that I have not read the book. I have, rather, encountered it often in the secondary text on the continental philosophers I tend to read. So my understanding of it is limited. But what I do know about it is enough to put it pretty low on my reading wishlist. Secondly, given that you seem a lot deeper into formal training than I ever got, I would have assumed you had some knowledge of Fashionable Nonsense; so I offer the following description IN CASE you haven’t:

What the book came out of was an experiment of Sokal’s in which he published a falsified science paper with false information in a magazine in order to see how postmodern and poststructuralist philosophers would respond. And some did as if accepting it as legitimate scientific data. It was those missteps of the philosophers that Sokal and Bricmont based Fashionable Nonsense on. But we need to look at what the whole scandal really tells us.

First of all, it tells us that Sokal was an authoritarian and pompous individual who engaged in the pettiness of publishing a false article in a legit science magazine, that is as compared to just publishing his own models and letting them compete with those of the continentals. His only concern was to maintain a vertical and hierarchal model of knowledge in which the position of “expertise” would legitimize an assertion as compared to just letting the legitimacy of assertions come out in the wash of cultural natural selection. And I would note here the role that an increasing need for corporate funding (as state funding decreases (is playing in the dominance of the analytic approach which APPEARS to be more functional –that is when scientists are no more interested in what analytics have to say than the continentals. Here I would return to a point made by Khristy (that is to give you sense of the cultural context she is working in:

“I think you should choose a grad program that has reasonable success of placing their PhDs in gainful employment."

This comes down to the tyranny of the functional that comes with corporate influence. And the only way that the analytic approach seems to be fulfilling it is through (see Dennett, Searle, Pinker, etc. (students learning how to write marketable books.

Secondly, all Sokal showed us is what we all should have known in the first place: that philosophers are not scientists. Therefore, they have to depend on the authority of scientists who publish in legit science magazines. So if there is fault, it lies with Sokal’s schoolyard prank.

I would also note a point made in secondary text on Deleuze (it was either Hugh’s or Buchanan –I can’t remember which and haven’t the time to look it up(that much of Sokal and Bricmont’s argument against him was that they didn’t understand. And being a Deleuze fan, I get that. I mean it: that fucking French Man and damn the French and their weird obscure philosophies anyway. But I’m a little confused as to how Sokal and Bricmont could read a misunderstanding of science into text they clearly couldn’t understand in the first place.

“Once the subject-object dichotomy was eliminated as the only framework within which critical debate could occur, problems that had once seemed so troublesome did not seem to be problems at all. As an advocate for the rights of the reader, I could explain agreement only by positing an ideal (or informed) reader in relation to whom other readers were less informed or otherwise deficient. That is, agreement was secured by making disagreement aberrant (a position that was difficult to defend since the experience with which one had to agree was mine).” -once again: from Stanley Fish’s intro to his Is There a Text in this Class…

I mainly bring this quote in to emphasize the overlaps at work between Fish’s literary criticism and philosophy, as well as to redeem myself to my Deleuze and Pragmatic habitations (or playgrounds if you will (which I have been pestering with it.

It’s all there. And the mention of the subject-object dichotomy pretty much cues us in to it. But I would note how in this quote:

"Once the subject-object dichotomy was eliminated as the only framework within which critical debate could occur, problems that had once seemed so troublesome did not seem to be problems at all.”

:Fish basically turns to the same solution as both Deleuze and Rorty did: resorting to the materialism of thinking of humans as nodes in a complex system. And as this quote shows:

“As an advocate for the rights of the reader, I could explain agreement only by positing an ideal (or informed) reader in relation to whom other readers were less informed or otherwise deficient. That is, agreement was secured by making disagreement aberrant (a position that was difficult to defend since the experience with which one had to agree was mine)."

:he did it explicitly for the perfectly democratic purpose of undermining the old Platonic notion of knowledge being some kind of corporate hierarchy justified by some transcendent criteria. However, here he is more Deleuzian than Rortyan in that he is looking at the relationship between text and reader and their given interpretive community as a kind of interaction of systems whereas Rorty worked in the more superficial, accessible, and practical expressions of that interaction of systems. Still, we must admire Rorty for his ability (in the sense of a generous teacher: much like Jaspers (to explain that expression in historical terms.

Had a thought tonight:

It may well be that one of the biggest failures in the analytic’s sometimes smug dismissal of the continental approach is its failure to see its common ground with it. I mean whatever you are pursuing, it always about understanding systems to the extent that, because of your comfort with them, you are able to (via creativity (to adjust them in new ways. In this spirit, the analytic first pinned its hopes on language then turned to science. This is demonstrated in Wittgenstein who started out with full faith that truth could be fully approached via the logic of language only to eventually recognize how reality always seems to overflow the language we use to describe it. This is why he eventually recognized the value of language games.

Now I would note how Deleuze and Guatarri, in What is Philosophy, paralleled Wittgenstein’s earlier work in recognizing the import of conceptual play for the sake of creating yet more concepts. In other words, the main difference between D & G’s model is their focus on concepts as compared to the analytic’s focus on language which is, by its inherent nature, beholden to mental concepts.

Granted, I’m fucking this up: this writing at the edge of what I know –as Deleuze suggests I do. But let me try a different approach. Take Stanley Fish’s approach that brings Temporality into the issue of text which is static in nature. The text is always changed by the moment in time it is being perceived. And this is laid out as well in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition in which an object we are observing in space is always the same thing at different points in time. And we can see how this could all lead to the postmodern blur that we experience with postmodern and poststructuralist thought: the Lacanian Real overflowing the symbolic order.

The thing is, in order to arrive at these understandings, we have to surrender to systems of thought that get us to them. This means that whether we are taking the analytic or continental approach, we will always be dealing with conceptual schemes overflowed by reality. We can only see the object as different at each point in space and time because we understand the concepts of space and time and their effect on our perception.

“What interests me about many of the essays collected here is that I could not write them today. I could not write them today because both the form of their arguments and the form of their arguments and the form of the problems those arguments address are a function of assumptions I no longer hold.” –once again from Stanley Fish’s intro to Is There a Text in this Class….

These are the very first words that Fish starts the book with. And they are important in that they define very mode of operation that Fish is working in. But in order to get at it, I have to describe a recent change in the mode of operation I am working in. I use to assume that I could just keep skimming over text because what was of import to my individual process would latch to my individual filters –the ones I have developed along the way. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that what that results in is me just repeating what I know without ever getting beyond it. I have therefore decided that my study points at the “library” will consist of me going over and over the first chapter until I get comfortable enough with it enough (to bleed it for all I can (to move on to the next.

And what I have extracted in that process (and in reference to the quote above (is that Fish’s book is basically a history (via individual essays (of how he went from his initial position to his concept of the interpretive community. This is why every article starts with Fish’s critique of what he was doing at the time.

The important thing to note here is how Fish doesn’t just tell, but rather shows. He applies his criticism of the formalist approach via temporality by applying the effect of the temporal on his process as concerns his process and engagement with literature.

“I met that objection by positing a level of experience which all readers share, independently of differences in education and culture. This level was conceived more or less syntactically, as an extension of the Chomskian notion of linguistic competence, a linguistic system that every native speaker shares. I reasoned that if the speakers of a language share a system of rules that each of them has somehow internalized, understanding will, in some sense, be uniform.” –once again from Fish’s intro to Is There a Text in this Class

Now in terms of the Deleuzian/postmodern model of the text and reader being systems interacting within a kind of meta-system, we can easily see why Chomsky’s linguistics would be brought into the mix. And we can further see how all this works under the counsel of the evolutionary model, that which is the source of the overlap between them.

But I would also like to bring into the mix and overlap the Jungian archetype, that which I believe is propped up by Chomsky’s linguistic systems. The thing to understand is that (as I read him when I did (Jung tended respond to accusations of mysticism by rooting the archetype in the structures of the brain, by seeing them as expressions of those evolutionary structures. He did attempt to give them a scientific basis. And I would humbly argue that it is this very scientific basis that Fish anchors his Interpretive Community in.

To me it all comes down to brain plasticity and the role it has played in our evolution: that interaction between individual organisms, the object before them and the environment that surrounds the object, and the other organisms they are sharing the experience with. In this sense, the text that Fish focuses on (that is as a literary critic (is not as different from a group of primates staring at a fire as we might think.

And here we justify expanding Fish’s argument for the Interpretive Community (via the postmodern understanding of “text” as anything that can be interpreted (much as Rorty supposedly did Kuhn. We are justified in hijacking Fish for postmodern purposes –that is whether he likes it or not.

“The distance I have traveled can be seen in the changed status of interpretation. Whereas I had once agreed with my predecessors on the need to control interpretation lest it overwhelm and obscure texts, facts, authors, and intentions, I now believe that interpretation is the source of texts, facts, authors, and intentions. Or to put it another way, the entities that were once seen as competing for the right to constrain interpretation (text, reader, author) are now all seen to be the ‘products’ of interpretation.” –once again: Stanley Fish…

I would first note how Fish seems to be a product of the interpretative community of postmodern and post- structuralist thought. Having worked in the 60’s and 70’s, he is clearly a product of that particular Zeitgeist which, ironically, props up his notion of the interpretive community. And given that, it seems to me that we can expand his point concerning literary criticism by bringing in the postmodern definition of “text” as being anything that can be interpreted: art, a current issue, society, whatever….

And we can do so in the same manner that Rorty did Thomas Kuhn and his “paradigm shifts”. But we do so at the same risk that Rorty came up against by taking Fish’s point in directions that might elicit his protests. But then Fish should have seen it coming given the model he offered that gave the reader (with their given interpretive community (equal status with the text. And he was right to do so. Take abstract or conceptual art. Clearly, the meaning that comes from it is derived from the discourse that goes on around it. But then, as he argues in deference to the formalist position: the text is always there, stable as ever, waiting to prove us wrong.

Finally, I (in a rare moment of foresight (brought in Rorty’s use (or misuse (of Kuhn for a reason. I now realize, having immersed myself in Fish’s book as I have, that the paradigm shifts that Kuhn describes are usually the product of a lot of individual or personal paradigm shifts. As I have quoted Fish before:

“What interests me about many of the essays collected here is that I could not write them today. I could not write them today because both the form of their arguments and the form of their arguments and the form of the problems those arguments address are a function of assumptions I no longer hold.”

It just seems to me that the book is basically a narrative of Fish’s personal paradigm shift. This is why he puts in brief explanations, before each article, of the part those articles played in it.

“I challenged the self-sufficiency of the text by pointing out that its apparently spatial form belied the temporal dimension in which its meanings were actualized, and I argued that it was the developing shape of that actualization, rather than the static shape of the printed page, that should be the object of critical description” –as always: from Fish’s intro to Is There a Text in this Class

Here I would like to focus on the extent to which temporality has influenced contemporary thought (both postmodern and post-structuralist (and the way it has abandon static forms for the dynamic: that which is destabilized and de-centered. It comes down to a time honored (for me at least (riff I like to pull out from time to time:

At what point are you in this sentence right now?

One of Fish’s main arguments against the formalist approach is that it tends to seek meaning at the end of things: the end of each word, of each clause, of each paragraph, and on and on. But Fish sees meaning in the process. He takes the democratic approach of letting every process find its meaning (in process (while having it restrained by the reality of the text as well as the symbolic order the individual is working in. And I think my sentence shows how meaning works, not through the meaning of each individual word, but the way the meaning of each individual word bleeds into the word before and after it.

Before I move on to my next immersion, I want to tie up one last loose end as concerns Fish. I’ve pretty much established that his main claim to fame is his break from the text centered formalist approach (as well as its tendency to anchor meaning in what happens “at the end of the text” (into a more process based approach that gives the reader equal status. And at one point in the intro I have been focusing on, he offers an example (shows rather than tells), based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, that demonstrates the advantage (as concerns extracting meaning (his approach has over the formalists. And hopefully, in between tapping at the keyboard, drinking beer and sipping Jager, glancing back at the text itself, and summarizing, I’ll manage to pull this off. But first the quote:

Satan now, first inflam’d with rage came down,
The Tempter ere th’ Accuser of man-kind,
To wreck on innocent frail man his loss
Of that first Battle, and his flight to Hell.

Now let’s look at this particular line:

To wreck on innocent frail man his loss

The tendency of most readers would be to assume that the referent of “his” would be “innocent frail man”. And it would naturally follow from this that the loss in question, the one Satan had wrecked upon man, was the garden. But if you actually look at the logic of it, the loss in question is actually Satan’s “Of that first Battle, and his flight to Hell.”

Now if we were to accept the at-the-end approach of the formalists, we would reduce this to a failure on the reader’s part. But if I’m reading Fish right, we also have to look at how Milton utilized the line break in order to trick the reader into the misconception in the first place. And there is a good chance he also understood that the reader would eventually correct themselves. And he did so because he saw meaning in that process so that the reader, as Fish put it, would become “aware of his tendency, inherited from those same parents, to reach for interpretations that are, in the basic theological sense, self serving”. As Fish concluded:

“This passage then would take its place in a general strategy by means of which the reader comes to know that his experience of the poem is a part of its subject; and the conclusion would be that this pattern, essential to the poem’s operation, would go undetected by a formalist analysis.”

I have recently, due to personal experience, recognized a flaw in one of my favored models: two responses (the psychotic and the sociopathic (to the nihilistic perspective in relation to the symbolic order. But first a quick explanation.

The nihilistic perspective basically involves recognizing that any argument we might make breaks down to assumptions, and these assumptions reach a point where they can no longer be validated by other assumptions or arguments. You either accept those assumptions or don’t based on your given sensibility. In other words, these assumptions float on thin air and there is no solid foundation for any argument we make or any real criteria by which to judge action. And the symbolic order (as a human construct propped up by power and power alone (is as beholden to this dynamic as our individual belief systems.

This lack of a real criteria can lead to two responses: the psychotic and the sociopathic. The psychotic response is about retreat in that, having no real criteria by which to judge action, the individual creates their own semiotic bubble with its own terminology and rules of discourse and action. The ideal model for this is the mad man walking down the street engaged in a personal discourse that most normal people cannot understand. But it can also be applied to drug addicts and alcoholics and in more productive ways such as the avant garde in the arts.

The sociopathic response is more aggressive in that, having no real criteria by which to judge action, the individual turns to the one criteria that seems to have a kind of force and praxis about it: that of power. It ultimately breaks down to an erroneous tautology:

I have power because I am right; therefore, I am right because I have power.

This, of course, is the domain of the sociopathic serial killer, but can manifest in more socially acceptable ways such as cut-throat Wall Street types or players as anyone knows who has had their heart broken by one.

That said, as recent experience has showed me, my model wasn’t completely accurate in that I have presented the two responses as two unrelated responses acting from two poles from two sides of the symbolic order. But as the movie Trainspotting more accurately suggests, the two can actually interact in complex ways. The predatorial aspect of the sociopathic can be seen in the psychotic response while the psychotic individualization of their semiotic order can be seen in the sociopathic. As it turns out, my model was perhaps a little too orderly.

In reference to string: … 208377019/

“So… all this would be useful for what???” –Armand Martin

First of all, Armand: I’m glad you asked. Not only is this a question I’ve spent about the last 40 years of my life trying to answer (a question I’ve built a lot of confidence and comfort with answering), but you’ve pretty much given me the keys to the kingdom in that the question and answer lies at the core of almost every space (every sandbox (I inhabit here: the opportunity for cross pollination here is like… wow!!! Everything coming together….

Alright!!! Let’s get started:

I would start with a question for you, Armand: why does everything have to be “useful”? Now I get it. I, myself, have argued throughout these boards that there is a disconnect between theory and day to day life. But why does everything we do have to be useful? The diametrical opposite of Play?

It seems to me that what you are appealing to is the tyranny of the functional which can be unequivocally attributed to the corporate values of producer/consumer Capitalism. And in that context, no form of opposition could be more useful than useless acts of play. I mean how is watching a movie or listening to a song “useful”? One could even ask how engaging in religious rituals are “useful”. Yet people engage in these acts all the time. I, and my respected colleagues, engage in this not because it might lead to the creation of an I-Phone; but because it justifies (makes beautiful (our point A to point B.

And in that context, we see an actual use for seemingly “useless” pursuits of knowledge:

We, as a species, are at an important evolutionary milestone: we either evolve beyond the competitive mode we started with (that which uses our higher cognitive functions for the purposes of our baser impulses (into the cooperative: that which turns to a tit for tat relationship between our baser impulses and our higher cognitive functions (or we end up destroying ourselves as a species. And it may well be (via brain plasticity (our more “useless” forms of Play that get us beyond that very important milestone.

This is important, guys. And Armand’s question is proof positive.

“In his consideration of law and repetition in the introduction to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze is not primarily concerned with laws of nature but with moral laws that are based on acts meant to be independent of laws of nature. His target is not science but a Kantian approach to morality.” -Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A Critical Introduction and Guide (pp. 35-36). Edinburgh University Press. Kindle Edition.

Williams then goes on to say:

“However, this focus on morality is also a weakness. It means that, at this stage of his book, Deleuze continues to evade legitimate questions concerning the role that science may have to play in the development of his own concepts. Does it make sense to speak of intensity, of individuals and of their acts without putting these terms to scientific scrutiny, in the form of experiments, and to scientific criticisms, in the form of comparison with what is known about these concepts (Emotions are produced by these chemical reactions. This individual has these properties. The reasons given for these acts are . . . The chemical genetic and physical explanations for them are . . .)?”

And we have to agree with Williams here. There is just no way around science. I recently came up against this with my model of the psychotic and the sociopathic in the context of the nihilistic perspective and the symbolic order. The two people who were responding to it kept responding in terms of the clinical definitions of psychosis and sociopathy while I was working in the metaphorical: I was attempting to describe a cultural phenomenon. To put it another way, I was offering a model that would be of more interest to artists than anyone who wanted a more expositional understanding of the human condition. And I would humbly offer a model that might lead a consolidation between the continental and analytic approaches to philosophy.

I return to my revision of Russell’s description of philosophy: that it lies in that no-man’s land between science and theology. I, however, given the secular times we live in, have revised it to that which lies in that no-man’s land between Science and Literature. Here, for me at least, we get a more delicate understanding of the difference between the analytic and continental approach: while the analytic leans towards the science side of the science/literature spectrum, the continental leans towards the literature side of it.

And both have value: the scientific for seeing the facts in the face of that which resonates and seduces and the literary for posing the resonate and seductive against the operationalism of the scientific that claims to have exclusive access to facts when it, in fact, gets thing wrong from time to time, especially when it comes to the human condition which can’t be isolated in a lab environment.

Actually, I’m glad you asked, Christian. Not only because it gives me an opportunity to pull out an old riff and work in my comfort zone, but because today’s study point gave me nothing to write about. That confession out in the open, I’m not really sure we can talk about “a philosophy” or “your philosophy” as much as a philosophical model that works within the general tradition of philosophy.

And in that sense of it, I would pull out, yet again, one of two (maybe three (golden eggs I’m proud of: Efficiency: that which is maximized by minimizing the differential between the resources put into a given act and the resources gotten out. And the main source of that pride is the way it overlaps with all three members of my holy triad: Deleuze (w/ and w/out Guatarri), Rorty, and Zizek. But, in order to understand it, we first have to recognize that philosophy (along with every other discipline one might pursue (has always been dominated by one imperative: to get to know systems to the point of being able to work creatively with them. This, as far as I can tell, is the only means by which we advance or progress. And this, ultimately, involves working from the general systems involved down through the various subsystems to the individual actions of which a given system is composed.

And as far as I tell as concerns philosophy, our understanding of those individual actions has been pretty much been dominated by a Metaphysics of Power. Take, for instance, Spinoza’s notion of joyful and sad affects which is a matter of those individual interactions being a matter of overcoming the other or not. We also have Schopenhauer and Nietzsche’s Will to Power. The idea, of course, is that, through the diverse attempts to overcome the other, it all levels out into the closest thing to perfect by addressing a multitude of diverse interests. This was the main thesis behind Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

Here’s my problem with it, though: it seems to me that if every individual act was merely a matter of one actor attempting to overcome the other, our whole system would have destroyed itself years ago in mad struggle to become “king of the hill”. It wouldn’t have leveled out as much as drawn into one most powerful thing.

Hence the Metaphysics of Efficiency. In this case, the primary mechanism by which everything works is a formula I have devised: Efficiency potential = Resources/expectations. And there is no need to do the math. It simply means that nothing decreases potential efficiency like lowering resources or increasing expectations while, inversely, nothing increases potential efficiency like either increasing resources or decreasing expectations.

And once you understand the implications of this, you start to see the diverse (maybe even universal (ways it can be applied. Just to give you a taster: you have to ask why drug addicts and the homeless seem to choose (or stick with (the life they do. But if you consider the formula offered above, you start to see that they see it more efficient to lower their expectations (as compared to the expectations of “normal” people (so that the resources available to them meet those expectations. And we can see it at the opposite pole with successful people who end up destroying themselves because the resources available to them can never meet the expectations they have. It even has literary applications. I mean if you think about it, many stories about family dynamics (think Death of a Salesman here (are about a coexistence of efficiencies (an efficiency in itself (compromised by one family member having higher expectations than the resources available to the system can meet.