Friday, February 29, 2008

I am a non-believer who is frightened of the barbarity of many fundamentalist Christians

Richard Rorty on liberal theology from Faith and Theology by Ben Myers
In an interview, Richard Rorty has offered a very memorable assessment of liberal theology:

“I’m delighted that liberal theologians do their best to do what Pio Nono said shouldn’t be done – try to accommodate Christianity to modern science, modern culture, and democratic society. If I were a fundamentalist Christian, I’d be appalled by the wishy-washiness of [the liberal] version of the Christian faith. But since I am a non-believer who is frightened of the barbarity of many fundamentalist Christians (e.g. their homophobia), I welcome theological liberalism. Maybe liberal theologians will eventually produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian anymore. If so, something will have been lost, but probably more will have been gained.”

I can hardly imagine a more acute commentary on certain forms of contemporary Protestant theology. Is this not, in fact, the precise goal of many theologians (e.g. Cupitt, Spong) – “to produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian anymore”?

So called "libertarians" are just eternal adolescents

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Disregarding all reductionist prophecies about the...":

So called "libertarians" are just eternal adolescents, total devoid of Wisdom and a Culture of Wisdom, and dramatising their presumed "independence" and refusing to submit to anything other than their own half-baked ideas.

Beavis & Butthead Do America and South Park sum up the "culture" produced in their image. The "culture" of orifices being stuffed, and of course barfing on everything. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era at 8:14 AM, February 29, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The word, Capitalism was first invented by the Eng...":

Yes there is a dark "genius" to capitalism because it is a system that will inevitably lead to the destruction of everything---such being the inevitable result of the presumptions at its roots. Have you really read the "news"? Posted by Anonymous to Marketime at 8:07 AM, February 29, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Hegel argues that Kant has inappropriately excepti...":

I much prefer the humorous "explanations" of Zippy the Pinhead (are we having fun yet!!) and the ever weirdly wonderful R Crumb.

If we are not having fun yet we havent even begun to understand anything. Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 8:01 AM, February 29, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo has firmly estab...":

The cyber-"men", or the one-dimensional hollow men are already here and have been for quite some time now.Turn on your TV and watch fox "news".

They inhabit such outfits as the Heritage Foundation, the AEI etc etc and so on. Plus they have their man doing "god's work" as part of "god's plan" in the White House. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era at 8:22 AM, February 29, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Global Warming is real because of our dependence o...":

Years ago I read a comment by a Buddhist Llama that the sheer fact that we introducing so much extra energy into the world system altogether, via our burning of coal etc, and via nuclear energy, meant that somewhere down the line, dramatic changes in the world energy patterns WOULD occur.

This being completely separate from the question of how much CO2 and other gases are in the atmosphere. Posted by Anonymous to The Orchid and the Rose at February 29, 2008 9:02 AM

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sri Aurobindo will enlighten the way more than anyone else

Is there something like the Vedas or Bhagavad Gita anywhere
by Josh on Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:37 pm
What are the main teachings of these philosophies?
Best Answer There is an essence in the universe. We are all just constructs of it. There is no truth other than the Truth. We are all God for all of this is God. Krishna is one of the avatars who was born to teach man the truths of the universe. Yet, what we see and feel is only just an illusion for there is a deeper reality. I don't agree with it all the way.

Let my just advise you to read up on Sri Aurobindo. He will enlighten the way more than anyone else. Let me just say that I like the Upanishads more but then there's the Book of Sirach, the Avesta, and the writings of the Muslim Sufis.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sikh origins lie in the shared insights of Hindu and Muslim devotional mysticism

Home > Edits & Columns > FAITH LINE Eddies in current Arvind Sharma
Indian Express: Monday, February 25, 2008 at 2335 hrs Are religions such clearly demarcated entities?

Even as scholars have been struggling to define religion, the data from comparative religion has also forced them to come to grips with defining ‘a’ religion. Most books on religion and philosophy of religion follow the conventional view of religions as clearly demarcated entities — Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on.
The real picture, however, is more complex. In some societies, such as Japan, membership of more than one religious tradition is the norm. In Japan, more than 90 per cent of the citizens declared themselves as followers of Shinto; and more than 70 per cent of the same population also declared themselves Buddhists, in the census of 1985. Both these religions are distinctly mentioned in the census and the question which such dual membership poses is that of separateness of religions. Clearly, such a situation of dual membership is hard to imagine in the case of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The history and current experience of Sikhism in this respect of great relevance.
Willard G. Oxtoby remarks: The attention that the Sikhs merit does not rest primarily on their numbers, which are reckoned currently at more than 15 million, or over 1.5 per cent of India’s population. What makes the Sikhs important is their situation on the political and spiritual interface between Hindus and others in India. Sikh origins lie in the shared insights of Hindu and Muslim devotional mysticism, including a denial that distinctive forms of worship or a separate community identity is important to God. Ironically, the Sikhs in India have more recently displayed a quest for precisely such identity, namely, for public recognition as a separate tradition in a dominantly Hindu society.
Philosophers of religion are only now beginning to grapple with the theoretical significance of such issues. It is both in raising and in dealing with this issue that Sikhism makes one of its first contributions to the philosophy of religion. The philosophy of religion, which can get quite exercised over the question of defining religion, has been rather complacent in the matter of defining ‘a religion’ or ‘a religious tradition’. But once Sikhism is introduced into its ranks, this bullet can no longer be dodged. Excerpted from The Philosophy of Religion: a Sikh Perspective Published by Rupa & Co

Friday, February 22, 2008

Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo: timeless, absolutely mesmerizing

Useful practical advice. Not the ultimate solution., February 4, 2006 By Varun Rai (Stanford, CA.) - See all my reviews This review is from: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Paperback)

Steven has put forwards some lasting principles which if well imbibed, will lead to a much better and satisfied life. I would like to point out though that ALL his ideas are a degenerated form of deeper true spiritual writings of the Hindu Vedas. I read 7 habbits first, and several years later I read the teachings of the Vedas. And with every passing page of the Vedas I was more and more convinced how Steven has moulded these teachings to a material form which the ordinary man, that he has become today, can grasp. The advice is good and help one improve: the principles are the DHARMAS of social life. They are the first step towards the Ultimate...but definitely not the solution. If you want to know and live the Truth, I suggest: "Essays on the Gita" by Sri Aurobindo. It is timeless, in the truest sense.

Home > Campus Stretchings and blessings in class
Three Humboldt State Yoga instructors bring peace of mind to students
Emily Buckley Issue date: 2/20/08 Section:

He often reads poetry or peaceful literature to try and help students relax during Sava Sana, the end meditation pose. To sum up his belief, he quotes the great Sri Aurobindo: "All life is yoga." He believes this quote says that yoga takes life out of a narrow focus and helps us focus on the beauty of the present moments before us. Continued...

Think Tank - 1:38pm
read Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo.....absolutely mesmerizing account and explanation of the Gita in English....will help you find answers! ...

Do Islam and Christianity have anything whatsoever to do with God?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?":

Perhaps a more useful question is: Do Islam and Christianity have anything whatsoever to do with God? Or are they just archaic remnants of tribalistic, ethnic, and nationalistic deities? Nationalistic deities full of murderously reasonable demands, and historical (hysterical!) would be world conquering imperatives! Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 9:26 AM, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reformation slaughter and Jihadist horror

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Marx, who condemned exploitation, was himself, the...":

The title of this book is typical of the hypocritical double-minded horse pooh that those on the "right" use in the USA culture wars. And of the false straw-man arguments that they specialise in. The politics of binary exclusions which WILL sooner or later lead to the vicious applied politics of mass scape-goating---in an INEVITABLE attempt to cleanse or purge the USA body politic of the various leftist/humanistic/atheist/relativist cancers. And everything will be hunky-dory again and "christ" will rule for a thousand years---the thousand year REICH again. But we wont even mention the hugely enormous elephant in the room shall we!

Eisenhower's (Pentagon) military-industrial-entertainment complex---the REAL "culture" of death piped into everyones "living" rooms by the corporations that support the so called "discovery" institute---which is itself closely affiliated with the right wing think tanks which again are VERY LOUD cheer-leaders for the Pentagon death machine.

And brought to the entire planet via the over 700 known overseas military bases, or the over 6000 military bases in the USA, or the fact that "christian" America is by far the largest maker, seller, and USER of weapons of all kinds including WMD's. There has been an enormously huge increase in the total war-making budget since Sept 11. The current budget is the biggest ever, by a country mile.

Plus we wont mention the fact that the all pervasive "culture" of guns promoted by the NRA is in one way or another promoted and supported by these same right wing think tanks with which these two dudes have "intimate" (sic) connections. And they wonder why crazies masacre people on a regular basis. Everyone in the USA lives and breathes the "culture" of violence.

And if you want to check out an earlier period in the history of "christian" Europe when the "culture" of death REALLY DID RULE, check out the details of the seemingly never-ending slaughters during the protestant vs catholic wars after and during the "reformation". And how both catholics and protestants slaughtered the Anabaptists like vermin---with the specific instructions and encouragement of both the catholic and protestant ecclesiastical "authorities".

Much of Europe was thus devastated. And what about the witch burnings which were all done by righteous christian true believers. And lets remember that "christian" Europe gave us World War I and II. Europe was still very much a Christian civilization at the time. Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 1:02 PM, February 21, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Marx, who condemned exploitation, was himself, the...":

You know these righteous phoneys ought to thoroughly examine the rotten history of their church before making any claims to "righteousness". If anyone bothers to read their history books they will find that the "catholic" church (in particular) stinks or is rotten to the core, and always has been. Which is of course one of the reasons why the Reformation was inevitable, together with the appearance of widely distributed Bibles so that large numbers of ordinary people could see that they were being lied too, conned, and screwed (to death) by the catholic church.

A good place to start would be to Google A Criminal History of the Papacy which shows how rotten the papacy has always been. So much for the "vicar of christ", or "holy apostolic succession", or priests being the "icons of christ". Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 4:31 PM, February 21, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Private lives of "intellectuals" often inform, mal...":

Meanwhile how many catholic priests, the presumed "icons of christ" (to quote a well known catholic intellectual), have been convicted of paedophilia and other crimes, including systematic sadistic violence, against minors?

And how often have the relevant ecclesiastical authorities known about the same and either ignored it or covered it up. And what about the catholic priests who "baptised" the African slaves, to bring them to "christ" as they were herded like cattle on to the slave ships. And what about the active involvement of christians in all of that too---very good for business what.

How many millions of living, breathing, feeling, human beings (mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts) were thus victims of the systematic "culture" of death that was part and parcel of the "culture" of christian Europe at the time. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Open Forum at 1:31 PM, February 21, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Private lives of "intellectuals" often inform, mal...":

Anyone like Johnson who considers either Thatcher and Reagan as "heroes" is suffering from a serious spiritual, moral, cultural, and intellectual deficiency/bankruptcy. And didnt the said pope make a saint out of someone who openly declared his admiration for Hitler? Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Open Forum at 1:38 PM, February 21, 2008


Blackadder Says: February 21, 2008 at 4:10 am As for God suffering and dying, I agree that there is a paradox here, but I think it is a paradox fundamental to Christian doctrine, rather than a proof that the word “God” functions as a name. Still you’ve given me something to think about.

Matt McDonald Says: February 21, 2008 at 4:17 am ps. I don’t think it’s “pretty obvious” we worship the same God considering Jihadist element which has caused such horror from inception. Such a conclusion really requires a deeper theological distinction.

Blackadder Says: February 21, 2008 at 4:17 am To say that Muslims adore the one God is not quite the same as saying that they worship the same God as Christians do, though of course I would agree (as detailed in my post) that there are some senses in which Muslims and Christians do, in fact, worship the same God.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Private lives of "intellectuals" often inform, malform, and even contradict their public philosophy

Deadly Architects: An Interview with Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker, authors of Architects of the Culture of Death Architects of the Culture of Death is a series of biographical vignettes that outline and chronicle the disturbing and often disgusting lives of architects of the Culture of Death. In some ways it resembles Paul Johnson’s fascinating book, Intellectuals. Was that book an inspiration at all and is the comparison a valid one?

Donald De Marco: I did not read Johnson's book until after I had completed my series of Architects. Johnson's book, which I enjoyed, seems to reflect an animus against "intellectuals." He tends to give intellectualism a bad name. I am more concerned about distinguishing between good intellectuals from the bad ones. John Paul II is a good intellectual, whereas the Architects are not. What Johnson means by "intellectual" is the secular thinker who has "filled the vacuum left by the decline of the cleric and assumed the functions of moral mentor and critic of mankind." I did read James Gills' book, False Prophets, but found that a bit intemperate and much too emotional in tone (and I do not agree with his inclusion of Mark Twain). I tried to make Architects of the Culture of Death more philosophical, but without ignoring either biography or history.

Benjamin Wiker: I read Johnson’s book some years ago, and was really intrigued and amused by it. The general idea of examining how the private lives of "intellectuals" often inform, malform, and even contradict their public philosophy I found to be quite illuminating. I’m sure that when I originally formulated the idea of Architects of the Culture of Death, Johnson’s biographical approach was somewhere in the background. The introduction states that the focus on persons, rather than on accounts of ideas, was due to the fact that "biographies make clear that ideas have consequences only because they are created, embraced, and lived out in persons." Has our culture lost sight of the connection between people and ideas? Why is that the case?

Wiker: I think it has. We are so used to hearing about the various "isms"—Marxism, existentialism, nihilism, socialism, capitalism, and so on—as if they were great, impersonal historical forces that sweep human beings along, that we forget that such "isms" gained their power only through thinking and acting persons. This is especially important to remember when we, who are fighting against the culture of death, confront that most powerful and pernicious "ism," majoritism, the belief that because 51% of the people believe something is morally acceptable, then it can no longer be considered morally reprehensible.

In Architects, we have tried to break apart the notion that the culture of death is some kind of inevitable historical force that has overtaken us, by taking the reader back to the point in which the pernicious ideas that now dominate our culture were hatched in the minds of thinking and acting persons. When we realize that the acceptance of something like abortion wasn’t historically inevitable, but was the result of a concerted effort of a relatively small number of human beings, then reforming the deformed culture becomes a possibility—if only we think clearly and act courageously as architects of a culture of life.

De Marco: Richard Weaver wrote a famous book called, Ideas Have Consequences. The book's title is the re-affirmation of a truism. I find that much of teaching has to do with restating the obvious. Of course, ideas have consequences ("More powerful than armies is an idea when its time has come," said Alexander Dumas). Dostoevsky talked about how university students, for example, are so easily infected by incomplete ideas that float on the wind. Architects is a sustained attempt to get the reader to test, evaluate, and meditate on ideas. We should understand philosophy, not mindlessly react to it. When St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the "primacy of the intellect," all he means is that we should know before we act. There is a lot of fascinating and often shocking information in the book about the twenty-three men and women you write about. What do you think will surprise readers the most? What main insight do you hope readers will garner from reading the book?

De Marco: My hope is that by exposing the ideas of our Architects to the light of reason, readers will see how empty, distorted, and untenable those ideas are. My second hope is that they will better appreciate how rich, reasonable, and practical are the personalistic ideas of thinkers such as John Paul II, Jacques Maritain, and others. And a third hope is that the book will inspire and guide readers to work for the Culture of Life.

Wiker: I think that readers will be most shocked to find how different the actual lives of some of these thinkers are from their public images. Margaret Sanger, for instance, is presented by Planned Parenthood as a paragon of respectability, charity and intellectual honesty. In reality, she was extremely promiscuous, an ardent promoter of eugenics, and formed her view of existence according to her rather sordid private passions. Or, to take another example, Alfred Kinsey, who has long been presented by the intelligentsia and media as a disinterested scientist just trying to state the facts about sex. Again, when we view his private life, which delves beyond sordid into the macabre, we find a truly twisted individual who used science to promote his own perversities.

In nearly all of the "architects," we find that the originators of the various aspects of the culture of death—from sexual libertinism, abortion, to infanticide, euthanasia, and eugenics—knew what they were about, clearly saw the conclusions, and worked toward them quite deliberately. We see around us now the dread result of their efforts. What readers should begin to see, more and more clearly with each "architect," is that the culture of death really did come about as a kind of conspiracy that is now coming to full fruition. The three "Will Worshippers" (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Rand) are notable for their unrelenting arrogance, nastiness, and hatred for other people. Did the ideologies of these people seem to flow from their repulsive personalities, or did the embrace of false beliefs eventually corrode their personalities?

De Marco: I strongly believe that there are virtues we need in order to think well. We are people, chock full of faults and imperfections and blocks. We do not approach thinking with a clear and open attitude toward the truth we seek to understand. We need humility to keep pride at a distance, modesty to serve the truth, docility to enable us to learn, and temperance to do justice to what we see. We need to be virtuous people before we can become reliable and judicious thinkers.

The biographical evidence indicates that our trio of "Will Worshippers" did not possess the kind of virtues that are needed to be clear and objective thinkers. When Chesterton referred to pride as the "falsification of fact by the introduction of self," he was indicating how important humility is in the life of an honest thinker. Our egos can easily muddy up the otherwise clear landscape of our thought. "When the blood burns," said Hamlet, "how the prodigal soul lends the tongue vows." Some Christians tend to blame the 1960s for most, if not all, of the current troubles in society. What is wrong with this perspective? In hindsight, did the ’60s reflect the culmination of a logical train of events and ideas?

Wiker: If we could use an architectural image, a well-built house doesn’t crumble in a day, even though, to those who see its roof suddenly cave in, it appears as rather a sudden event. As should be clear from reading the architects, the rot had already been eating away at the foundations of western culture from some time, especially among the intelligentsia. By the 1960s the ideas of the architects of the culture of death had spread out among a greater mass of people, a critical mass we might say, enough to cause what appeared to be a sudden collapse of our culture. Deadly Architects Part 2

Western universities are totally embedded and enfolded within the anti-spiritual secular "world"-view

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Marion boldly climbed beyond the irrational nonsen...":

What a hoot Fred H talking about metaphysics.! Freds "metaphysics" and his politics are as subtle as a cruise missile. Marion did no such thing. All he did was string together another clever sequence of words. Just an extension of the never-ending Western quest to describe, and hence to gain power and control over everything.

Like everyone in the West, including Fred H, he (Marion), is part of a "culture" in which the "mind" has been thoroughly secularised for at least 200 years---Humpty Dumpty was shattered a very long time ago.

ALL Western universities, even those that pretend to be sympathetic with religion and Spirituality, are totally embedded and enfolded within the anti-spiritual secular "world"-view. From the perspective of a fragment of Humpty's broken shell, all kinds of clever word-smiths such as Marion, try to create a "metaphysics" that accounts for everything. If you begin with a fragment, that fragment will govern or circumscribe everything you say and do. Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 8:54 AM, February 20, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The supreme difficulty is to de-suture philosophy ...":

Methinks the author plus Badiou and all of his admirers, and all of the theorists, ought to read the marvellous Coming Into Being by William Irwin Thompson to discover the relation between the poetic imagination/VISION and the usual dim-witted reductionist "philosophy" generated in the Western mind-factories (universities). Posted by Anonymous to Feel Philosophy at 9:07 AM, February 20, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Early Christian theology is inconceivable without ...":

This reference is part of the conversation about what would Jesus deconstruct. Surely the answer is almost everything to do with the vast edifice of churchianity. After all Jesus was scathingly critical of the pharasaical religion of his time and worked and taught completely outside of and essentially in opposition to the eccliastical structures and äuthorities of his time---which is of course why he had to be gotten rid of, because the Truth with a capital T was just as unacceptable then as it is now.

The entire death and "resurrection"(and its "salvation") script is a consoling and destructive lie, which in this day and age should be thrown away with both hands. Posted by Anonymous to Evergreen Essays at 9:24 AM, February 20, 2008

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Karat and Democrats should read Kipling":

Kristol is a slimeball psycho-path. There is an excellent demolition of him and his toxic politics at TomDispatch. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Political Action at 9:35 AM, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sri Aurobindo believed that the human race will evolve, thinking will evolve

Fritjof Capra February 15, 2008 by meenasrinivasan33
I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dr. Fritjof Capra speak in Delhi a few days ago. He spoke about how there are those out there making a move to shift away from the cartesian, marxist, materialistic, dualistic paradigm…people realize that this dichotomous model is flawed. He spoke on the science for sustainable living and Dr. Karan Singh (Chairman of the ICCR) gave “quite” the introduction where he managed to talk about Sri Aurobindo, quote from the Upanisads and mention Harry Potter. What follows are some of my notes from his talk.

Aurobindo believed that the human race will evolve, thinking will evolve. We live in networks and in human society through communication we produce something very powerful but nonmaterial…thoughts and ideas have meaning. He spoke about the biological, cognitive and social dimensions and the synthesis of these.
Education today must focus on having students explore hidden connections. Real knowledge is to perceive the hidden connections between phenomenon. Networks are basic patterns of organization. Descartes focused on mind and matter but the mind is not a thing but a process that can allow us to overcome Cartesian duality. Soul and Spirit, breath of life.
Ecological design, sustainability…model our communities after nature’s ecosystems. We must teach our children to be ecologically literate. Take a look at Lester Brown’s “Plan B.” Posted in Dharma Teachings (Notes) No Comments » About “I am Thou” Ramchandra Gandhi

The Dawning Age of Sri Aurobindo

Since 2000, I have needed a sort of bodhisattva figure. In a sense, I've had that in Osiris... but that's not as tangible and visceral as in Malek Ta'us/Deo Pavo. He seems to be making both Osiris and Horus more palpably human, more compassionate, more involved in the soul of the manifest world, sexier and more adaptable. And He seems necessary, for a host of reasons, to the Dawning Age of Horus (which I see best exemplified in the ideas of Sri Aurobindo, somewhat dimly glimpsed by Crowley). He will help me to come to the right sort of political adjustment that is appropriate for my individual work. Once I've come to terms with the broad social -- humanity as the political and economic -- then I expect to go deeper--as student and teacher--with people who come into my life organically. And I may give some of this energy to what I'm calling--for lack of a better term--an "Osirian Medicine Society" --something there's a general need for, especially in Fellowship of Isis (little "men's" content or role for the God as a co-equal being).

We have a lot of "community as teacher" practice and potential in Pagan religions. The coven model lends itself to it, and it's one I'd like to give more energy to. I want to explore models of collective process that I know about from the Meher Baba movement and various monasticisms... and I think it's part of what I admire about the Society of Friends. With a truly committed circle of folks who are doing deep work, we can go deeper than alone or with a teacher. Two and triangulation are always dangerous. 5-9 seems optimal. For me, there are lots of Gods and lore... but it seems that what I have most to offer is the distilled and pared down fruit of that rich innter world. Baroque inside, Zen outside. I AM THAT Copper's Klatsch and Catch-All Earlier Entry Later Entry Recent Entries Archive

Taboo against ecstasy/transcendence was established at the very beginning of Pauline churchianity

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Heidegger insists that the kind of transcendence h...":

Christianity is not and never has been about transcendence or ecstasy. It was and is about social control, about being a "good" meat-body personality, and if you are "good", getting your "transcendent" reward in the next life. No present time ecstasy (stepping outside of your socially constructed "self" allowed)

Alan Watts wrote a book titled The Taboo Against Knowing What You Are. The Taboo against ecstasy/transcendence was established at the very beginning of Pauline churchianity. Our current thoroughly secularised "culture" is the inevitable outcome of that power and control seeking meme. When did any of the dreadfully serious buttoned down scholars at Immanent Frame ever go into a state of ragged unbounded state ecstasy? Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Open Forum at 3:12 PM, February 16, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Heidegger insists that the kind of transcendence he is thinking about itself surpasses Christianity

Is critique secular?: Equal opportunity criticism (affirmative faction) posted by Gil Anidjar

“Unyielding antagonism and stinging rebuke have a more abysmal source than the measured negation of thought. Galling failure and merciless prohibition require some deeper answer.”

It is not clear whether Heidegger provided the deeper answer to the question of criticism (“unyielding antagonism and stinging rebuke”) such as he describes it in this striking moment of “What is Metaphysics?” What he does provide is a name and a structure for these and related “possibilities of nihilative comportment.” For in all of them, Heidegger says, in all criticism, that is, there is a “surpassing of beings as a whole.” This surpassing Heidegger calls “die Transzendenz.”

To be sure, Heidegger insists that the kind of transcendence he is thinking about itself surpasses Christianity (as well as science, in fact, which “becomes laughable when it does not take the nothing seriously”). Transcendence – unyielding antagonism and stinging rebuke directed at beings as a whole – may seem like a hyperbolic word for “critique” but it reveals, I think, a deep truth about critique as a structure, a transcendental structure. It also reveals (with no more than the appearance of paradox), the way in which “critique” (beautifully traced by Talal Asad in his post) has come to share a certain secularism with Heidegger’s transcendence.

Consider Edward Said’s reference to Hugo of St. Victor, by way of Auerbach, in his well-known appeal for “secular criticism.” Said proposes both authors as a joint model for criticism, for “philological work,” that “deals with humanity at large and transcends national boundaries.” The secular critic must be separated from his heritage “and then transcend it” in order to become effective. Like Auerbach, Hugo – a twelfth century mystic; not the most immediate illustration of worldly labor – seems to have embraced the fact that “our philological home is the earth.” As Said quotes him: “he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land [perfectus vero cui mundus totus exilium est].” This deportment toward a negated totality cannot fail to recall Heidegger’s comportment toward “beings as a whole.” Which would be why Said himself deploys the very lexicon of height and transcendence he will proceed to criticize in “theological criticism,” ultimately to invert it for the benefit of the secular critic. Is this “nihilative comportment” however? It is not, at least not enough, not for Said, who outbids Auerbach in quoting a few more of Hugo’s words, thus clarifying what love’s got to do with it: “The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.”

In Displacing Christian Origins, Ward Blanton has attended to Heidegger’s surpassing gesture of separation, his own partaking in processes of extinction, his “nihilative comportment,” as it were, in relation to (Christian) theology and faith. “Faith is so absolutely the mortal enemy that philosophy does not even begin to want to do battle with it.” The secular critic knows that indifference is often the outbidding of antagonism. Blanton argues persuasively that there is in this “secular critique” something like an outbidding (Derrida’s word), a “movement by which philosophy has continually attempted to abstract itself from ‘positive’ religion in order to transcend its limitations toward a pure thinking of religion as such.” With Derrida, Blanton recognizes here at once a larger and a narrower phenomenon. This movement – Hannah Arendt called it “Sputnik” – would be far from universal. It would only be common to the “secularizing critiques of Christianity” (double genitive). Ultimately, it would be a kind of “Christian-secularizing ‘machine.’”

This is (not) a critique. This entry was posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008 at 7:00 am and is filed under Is critique secular?.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reinhold Niebuhr was a political liberal but not a theological one; he admired Karl Barth

The Stillborn God: The rules of the games posted by Mark Lilla SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home

Some critics have asked: what about the United States? Doesn’t its history show that liberal political theology and liberal constitutionalism can work hand in hand, that there is no aut-aut? David Hollinger and Daniel Philpott offer versions of this argument, which has also appeared in previous posts and in published reviews. Let me take them up briefly here before signing off.

I do not disagree with Philpott when he writes that “the formation and incubation of liberal democracy” in the United States drew from Christian tradition of dissent, which opened up theological space for thinking about the autonomy of politics. That is how things happened on the ground; but once it did, Americans found themselves playing by the rules of the new chess game, and today do not generally make reference to a divine nexus of God, man, and world when explaining to themselves what makes their constitution legitimate. We have kicked that ladder away (Pastor Huckabee notwithstanding). Given the presence of real, and really aggressive, political theology in the world today, we need to keep a sense of proportion about this.

Nor do I deny that Christianity “has continued to sustain and, at vital junctures, to contribute to the expansion of liberal democracy, both in thought and substance.” How could it not? After all, the whole point of liberal democracy is that we are no longer in the business of looking into people’s souls and questioning the grounds on which people have certain political views. There are many American Christians, and their Christianity no doubt inspires their views on a range of issues (for better or worse, let’s admit that, too). But the legitimacy of the constitution does not depend on accepting or even recognizing the legitimacy of their deepest convictions, only that they can express them, and by and large they accept that. Which means they are playing on the new board, not the old one.

David Hollinger thinks I misunderstand the American case because I focus on Germany, suggesting that the god of liberal theology is still alive and kicking here. Institutionally, this clearly isn’t so: the liberal Protestant churches have been severely depopulated over the past forty years, losing young people either to religious indifference or more ecstatic forms of faith, and liberal Catholicism isn’t doing any better. But Hollinger is referring to something else, I think, which is the prophetic strain in American religion which has done so much to inspire the political liberalism of our time. But this is not “liberal theology” in any recognizable sense, which is an intellectual tradition rooted in the nineteenth-century hope of accommodating faith to the demands of the present. The prophetic tradition wants to bring God’s judgment down on the present, denouncing racism, war, environmental degradation, inequality, and the rest.

Reinhold Niebuhr was a political liberal but not a theological one; he admired Karl Barth, and his early work in the churches of Detroit during the depression was inspired by a ferocious Augustinianism, not liberal accommodation. Similarly with Dr. King. We should not conflate the prophetic “social gospel” with liberal theology, which inspires very few today. American politics still makes room for prophets, as it should - so long as they retire to their churches once the ballots are cast. And they generally do. This entry was posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 7:00 am and is filed under The Stillborn God. One Response to “The rules of the games”

Michael Perry: February 14th, 2008 at 12:19 pm I have been studying, teaching, and writing about American constitutional law for over thirty years, but I am in the dark as to what Mark Lilla means, in his post, by “the legitimacy of the constitution” (which, he says, “does not depend on accepting or even recognizing the legitimacy of their deepest convictions”). Moral legitimacy? Political legitimacy? Something else? (Surely not, of course, legal legitimacy.) So many proper names, so little clarity. Please, can someone enlighten?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fukuyama underestimated the power of religion and culture to shape the human mind

I think the biggest knock on Fukuyama is that he underestimated -- to say the least -- the power of religion and culture to shape the human mind. And even more importantly, being a rationalist, he failed to appreciate the unconscious and irrational element in both of these realms. In short, he looked at culture as a basically rational enterprise instead of a deeply irrational (or arational or transrational) one. If even a relatively sane society such as the United States is prone to mass delusions, collective hysteria, and group fantasies, it is scarcely possible for us to imagine what it must be like to be an average citizen of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Berkeley.
And in pointing out that Fukuyama underestimated the power of culture, it's just another way of saying that he overlooked the realm of the vertical, in both its lower and upper aspects. The odd thing about earthlings is that they are attached to their culture, even -- or especially -- if the culture doesn't seem to work. Superficially this makes no sense, but it is exactly analogous to the manner in which a neurotic person is more attached to his neurosis than a "normal" person is to his sanity.
This is for complex reasons related to the manner in which mind parasites function. For a full explanation, I'd have to take a lengthy detour into developmental psychoanalysis, but the main idea is that it is unnecessary for the developing mind to internalize the good, only the bad. The securely attached child is more adventurous, spontaneous, and free, whereas the insecure child becomes much more attached to the very source of his insecurity. You've probably heard the cliche that bereavement is generally much more complicated when the relationship was a negative or ambivalent one, and this is the reason why. In general, pathological relationships are kept in place by a host of unconscious tentacles with hidden agendas, reaching back and forth, holding the couple together with what might be called (-p), or negative passion...
At any rate, Fukuyama was essentially updating the classical liberal ideal of history, or what Coons call darwhiggian evolution. It may be contrasted with the post-modern badeal of historical meaninglessness, which in turn, is actually similar to primitive cosmologies, which either view the cosmos as a cyclical and unprogressive pattern of “eternal return” or as a degenerate process of departure and increasing distance from an idyllic past. Only with the Hebrew approach to history did mankind begin to discern a vector or direction in history, and with it, a sense of history’s purpose. That is, for the first time, history was seen as trying to get somewhere, and was looked upon as somehow interacting with sOmething on a “vertical” plane -- a trans-subjective force which both intervened in history and drew human beings toward it.
Later, Christianity would develop an explicitly logoistic theory of history, embodying the belief in a literal descent of this vertical power into the stream of horizontal time, so as to forge a concrete link between the vertical and horizontal -- between spirit and flesh, time and eternity, O and (•). To say that "God became man" or "Word became flesh" is just another way of saying that the vertical -- the Absolute, timeless ground, outside time and anterior to manifestation -- poured itself into material form and chronological time -- not just in a single human being, but in the whole upward "flow" of humanity.
Only humans can serve as a bridge between the higher and lower planes that are manifest in the outward process of history. Indeed, this is our vocation and purpose: to nurture and grow the seed of eternity within the womb of time. (This is not dissimilar to the Jewish concept of Tikkun -- of participating in the repair and completion of God's creation.)
To contemporary observers, the life of Jesus, or of the Hebrew prophets, was invisible. This is highly instructive. That is, the most important and influential events in human history were completely undetected and overlooked by contemporary sophisticates. Rather, they were noticed only by a handful of provincial rubes who "saw" and "heard," not with their eyes and ears, but in a trans-cerebral, intuitive manner.
What great world-historical events are invisible to the jaded elites of the present? What great vertical energies are entering the world today, undetected by a spiritually oblivious mainstream media, so hypnotized by the spectacle of time and blind to the eternal? The MSM, in thrall to the tyranny of the momentary, doesn't just promote this or that stupid idea. Rather, being that "the medium is the message," its central message is always the same -- that the Aion is broken into a million little disconnected fragments; that the world is deeply bizarre, insane, and perversely anti-human; and yet, at the same time, as trivial and fleeting as the speed of a thumb on the remote control.
The world is always ending, but perpetually being reborn. If that weren't true, mankind would never have found the exit out of its closed circle of material and instinctual existence. I am reminded of a passage from Joseph Campbell's Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake:
"The Wake, in its lowest estimate, is a huge time capsule, a complete and permanent record of our age. If our society should go smash tomorrow (which Joyce implies, it may) one could find all of the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake. The book is a kind of terminal moraine in which lie buried all the myths, programs, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millennium. And here, too, will be found the love that reanimates the debris. Joyce's moraine is not the brickdust but humus.... Through notes that finally become tuneable to our ears, we hear Joyce uttering his resilient, all-enjoying, all animating Yes, the Yes of things yet to come, a Yes from beyond every zone of disillusionment, such as few have had the heart to utter."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The blackout on his last days appears designed to encourage further Indian-style delusions about "the man and his message"

m alan kazlev has left a new comment on your post "Is there anyone living on the planet earth who has...": hi Tusar
no need to feel disappointed. I am not abandoning Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings so your analogy does not hold. But for me self realisation is a prerequisate for Integral Yoga. Others will have different prerequisites. Why should everyone follow the same path? To reply to your three questions:
What is Self-Relisation? I use Ramana's definition
Who said all ashrams teach the same thing?
Can't answer the last question, it doesn't feel relevent to me Posted by m alan kazlev to Savitri Era at 1:06 PM, February 08, 2008
Satpraxis has left a new comment on your post "Satprem respected the hundreds of sincere Ashramit...":
Cultish adulations and denials are incompatible with the searing and soaring sense of truth required on the spiritual path. Why don't you address specific issues and questions raised by Luc Venet, instead of wallowing in shrill and spite-filled rhetoric in defense of the dead man who wrote eloquently about "Life Without death"?
For example, address Satprem's paranoia about "adverse forces". Usually, a person subject to this sort of paranoia views only other people, especially those who disagree with one's illusions and delusions, as victims of "adverse forces" and never considers the possibility that he or she might be the actual victim of the "adverse forces" in entertaining suspicions about others.
Address the issue of Satprem's paranoia about Luc Venet's alleged pilfering with his (no-doubt historically indispensable?) letters. Luc has raised a very good question: why should I steal any letters in the original when I could just photocopy them? If Satprem did not have the Viveka or Buddhi to see this, then he needed "help" big time!
Address the issue of why Patrice committed suicide and why Satprem kept quiet. Surely, the man who waxed eloquent about the new species and this and that coud have expressed some feelings and given an explanation atleast to his puzzled associates?
And finally address the issue of what the man who talked about "Life without Death" had to say about his own impending death. The blackout on his last days appears designed to encourage further Indian-style delusions about "the man and his message". Posted by Satpraxis to Aurora Mirabilis at 4:20 AM, February 11, 2008
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Columbus' historic voyage was financed by wealthy ...":
I live in Spain and in Spain everybody regards him as a Spanish or Spanish Jew. To say he was Italian is proposterous. He signed his name as Cristobal Colon, never in his notes did he write in Italian. Most of his notes are in Catalan and Castillian and latin. He died in Spain, he has not ties with Italy at all. It is a mistery why Italians and US Americans think he is Italian. Maybe it has to do with the Italian influence in the United States. But out of respect for the discoverer, you guys should change your history books to whats right...or at least say his birth place was a mistery... But to say he was Italian 100%, why, because Italians say so?. Posted by Anonymous to Marketime at 2:01 PM, February 12, 2008
A very thought-provoking piece, and a very interesting slant on Alienation. Thank you, Kia ora from New Zealand, I just found you through my Google Alerts for Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy. I am impressed by the insights that you have on issues that have occupied me for more than 40 year and I think that you may enjoy my own website – which you are free to use as a resource. I am a retired academic with more than 40 years teaching Architecture at Universities on three continents (the UK, U. C. Berkeley and U. of Auckland, New Zealand).
I have a PhD in Architecture – specialising in the interface between design education and critical theory/critical pedagogy – but my writings cover a whole range of fields. I have a distinguished teaching Award from the University of Auckland (where I taught for 20 years), and for the last five years served as Director of Academic Programme Development at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, (one of three Maori Universities) in New Zealand where I also taught Critical Education Theory and Cultural Studies. This gave me a unique perspective on issues of Colonisation, Education and Cultural Pluralism and Critical Pedagogy. I retired a year ago and have set up the website as an educational resource. I am writing because I thought you might find my own website useful. It covers issues such as:
Critical Theory Critical Theorists Critical Practice (Praxis)Critical Pedagogy Critical Education Theory Colonisation Postcolonialism Postmodernism Indigenous Studies Critical Psychology Cultural Studies Critical Aesthetics Hegemony, Academic Programme Development Sustainable Design Critical Design etc. etc.
The website at: contains more than 60 (absolutely free) downloadable and fully illustrated PDFs on all of these topics and more offered to students from the primer level, up to PhD. It also has a set of extensive bibliographies and related web links in all of these areas.
I would be very grateful if you would have a look at the website and perhaps bring it to the attention of your friends and colleagues for them to use as a resource. There is no catch! It’s just that I believe the world is going to hell at an unimaginable rate and I want to do something to help to turn it around – for my five children and my grandchildren
All that I ask in return, is that you and they let me know what you think about the website and cite me for any material that may be downloaded and/or used. I would also appreciate a reciprocal link to my site from your own so that others may come to know about it and use it. Many thanks and best wishes
Dr. Tony Ward Dip. Arch. (Birm) Academic Programme, Tertiary Education and Sustainable Design Consultant(Ph) (07) 307 2245(m) 027 22 66 563(e) Posted by Tony Ward to Savitri Era Open Forum at 9:24 PM, February 09, 2008
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Classical-bred artists have invested their learnin...":
Some good points but the real question is who is Matthew's Spiritual Master? Matthew little-ji perhaps? Spiritual Masters are THE source of the Revelation of Truth. And the only key to Spiritual "transformation". It does not come from any other place. It does not fall out of the sky. It comes from Adept-Realizers. They are also the sources and inspiration of all True Culture and Civilization.Guru-less, equals god-less, equals culture-less.
Western art went through three broard phases. The glorification of god, then after the Renaissance, the "glorification" of meat-body man, then since WW2, and especially now, the in your face awfulness of the street level "reality"---the "reality" as portrayed in the various forms of "reality" TV which the masses thoroughly enjoy. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 12:26 PM, February 08, 2008
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A profoundly atheistic interpretation of the natur...":
Exoteric religions (as per "faith" and theology) and scientism, share the same basic reductionist presumptions. Namely that we are inherently separate from the Divine Conscious Light, from the world process altogether, and from each other.All of these are presumed to be entirely "other" are are thus objectified. One of the Upanishads tells us that whenever there is presumed other then fear spontaneously arises. What is more the objectified "other" is always thus your enemy, and you are always thus at war with everything "other" including the Divine Coscious Light.
Plus the moment that you objectify anything you automatically seek to control it (the "other"), and will thus eventually destroy the "other". So how "profound" could anyones understanding of anything possibly be when they are completely wrapped up in this (hell deep) fear based asana?
And what has the "resurrection of jesus" got to do with anything? What about the tooth fairy, santa claus, and the easter rabbit, all of which belong (with "jesus") to the same pantheon of childhood cartoon characters. Theology reduces the Divine Conscious Light to the merely mortal meat-body human scale. And thus both controls the Divine and uses the "divine" to justify the inevitable horrors produced, justified, and promoted by the ecclesiastical "authorities". Murder and mayhem, imperial conquest, and empire justified by the genocidal tribal deity. Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Open Forum at 10:47 AM, February 06, 2008
Just to be clear - from a Christian perspective, God (the Divine Conscious Light) has chosen to be "merely mortal meat-body human scale" in Jesus of Nazareth. This is a scandal to our natural reason, along the lines of the tooth fairy, santa claus, etc. But God has done it out of love for us. It is God's self-reduction, not ours. If we were gods, we would not reduce ourselves for the sake of love. We would stay on our thrones, and it is precisely because we refuse to understand the love of this incarnate God that we continue to murder. God's coming down to us in the human Jesus is the greatest news to all cultures and all religions. Jesus overcoming the power of death in the resurrection is even greater news. Posted by Chris TerryNelson to Savitri Era Open Forum at 10:24 AM, February 07, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Religion is likely to figure in the global future to an extent that most cosmopolitan theories have not considered

Jürgen Habermas’s account of the public sphere and its transformations, for example, pays almost no attention to religion (although his recent work does – see my next post). The error here is not simply Habermas’s own, but rather his participation in reproducing and extending an Enlightenment tradition of imagining religion outside the frame of the public sphere. This was tendentious, since empirically religion figured prominently in public life (though it was widely understood as fading). The Enlightenment theorists and many successors were not reporting on social reality so much as seeking to construct a reality in which religion would be outside the frame of the public sphere.
Modernity has hardly been an era of simple secularism, then, though of course few would interpret the secularism thesis so simplistically. The “postsecular” cannot be a reference to moving beyond a historical past so simplistically conceived. It can be a matter of moving beyond particular projects of achieving mutual understanding and conceiving of progress in entirely secular (and especially universalistic and nonsubstantive) terms. In this sense, thinking about postsecular public reason can potentially be helpful for improving the way we think about new projects of mutual understanding and social solidarity based on choice rather than mere imposition or inheritance. In particular, postsecular thinking may help us see some limits in many existing approaches to cosmopolitanism and some ways of enriching the pursuit of cosmopolitan ideals.
The ideal of cosmopolitanism is today rendered overwhelmingly in political terms. Citizenship of the world is a theme of political philosophers concerned with human rights, peace, and the responsibilities all humans owe each other. Even while these philosophers seek to transcend the nation-state, they somewhat ironically understand citizenship largely in the jural terms states have given the concept and in the logic of equivalence the rhetoric of nationalism has encouraged in domestic discussions. Most of these cosmopolitans are heirs of Enlightenment and French Revolutionary humanism, as well as more distantly of Diogenes Laertius, so this is not surprising.
Religion is likely to figure in the global future to an extent that most cosmopolitan theories have not considered. It is not just one among the various sources of diversity to be recognized and accommodated. There are also a number of religious projects that are direct competitors to secular cosmopolitanism, not because they are backwardly or defensively parochial but because they aspire to occupy the same space, providing moral and cultural and sometimes even political frameworks for global integration. Several religious traditions have produced transnational discursive fields of great scope and complexity. They mediate migrations as much as any secular accounts of cosmopolitan universalism. They inform relations among nations and among activists across national borders. The great world religions are internally diverse and polyvalent and not automatically forces for good or evil – any more than, say, nations and nationalisms are. But at least as much as nations and nationalisms it would be unwise to build social theories that in effect wish religion away, imagine it a fading inheritance from the past, or a private ‘taste’ that can be kept beyond the frame of the public sphere.
Cosmopolitanism is not realistically imaginable as the transcendence of all forms of belonging. To propose a leap into traditionless secular reason is to propose the tyranny of the pure ought, and indeed, an ought without a can. It is also to privilege a class and a cultural group able to identify its traditions – including secularism – with neutral reason. Global solidarity will be achieved – if it is ever achieved – by transformation of religion and other forms of cultural belonging rather than by escape from them. And it will be achieved on the basis of hope and critical perspectives and solidarity that inform public reason but are not produced simply from within it.
But the question of perspectives that should legitimately inform public discourse is not a trivial one. Indeed, religion, after all, appears prominently in contemporary politics in the form of strikingly illiberal views and positions, and in a package with practices that are difficult to condone. It also appears in more positive and even heroic forms, of course, not least as part of movements for peace, civil and human rights, and equitable development. What is normatively required of perspectives and reasons that inform public discourse? In my next post, I’ll explore critically Jürgen Habermas’s views on this vexing question.
[As part of an ongoing series of events on Rethinking Secularism, sponsored by the SSRC and the Institute for Public Knowledge, tomorrow evening Craig Calhoun will host and moderate a public dialogue at NYU on “Exploring the Post-Secular.” More details at Calhoun’s new blog, Societas.—ed.] This entry was posted on Monday, February 11th, 2008 at 6:00 am and is filed under Religion in the public sphere.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What of the professor that asks students to “write their own philosophy”

Some professors in philosophy will ask their students to write essays with questions like “pick five aphorisms from Nietzsche and explain why you found them interesting.” Will this produce anything but mediocre impressions where students repeat tired cliches about subjectivism or relativism or their various stereotypes? What of the professor that asks students to “write their own philosophy”. How is it possible for a student to do this if the student has had no encounters that call into question that students world?
No, as Deleuze points out, thought is not a natural activity or an ever-present human capacity, but only occurs as the result of an encounter that forces us to think. It is for this reason that I believe the aim of any pedagogy in the humanities should be alienation. Of course, I express myself in this way to produce a maximal rhetorical effect, perhaps a moment of outrage, with the hope that I might produce a little encounter. For in speaking of alienation, the aim is to alienate students from their habits, their order-words, their interpellations. In short, the aim is to produce a little crack in the world. For it is not until such a crack has been produced that we might begin to gain a little bit of freedom or autonomy with respect to our interpellations, that we might begin to critically evaluate these interpellations and become the agent of our encounters.
Thus, were I to respond to the question “why do you teach philosophy?” without speaking to my own unconscious, my own drives, my own obsessions, my own symptoms, I would say that I teach philosophy because I believe it is particularly well suited to producing encounters. On the one hand, what philosophy has ever come into being without a fundamental rupture in the world of the thinker where everything is turned upside down. The philosopher is the product of an encounter, whether as a result of social and political upheaval, scientific or mathematical discoveries that turn the commonplaces of the world upside down, or simply by existing in the interstices of the social world like Spinoza who was neither Christian nor Jew. In many instances, philosophy is the attempt to heal this wound, to suture it shut with stitches (the so-called State thinkers), returning the world once again to a familiar place. Yet the wound is a wound that perpetually returns, unsettling thought and sending it racing after new conceptual creations. It is a sort of a priori wound, yet in Foucault’s sense of a historical a priori. The philosopher is not the operator of the thought, but rather the effect of the thought and the wound that preceded him.
On the other hand, the distinctions of philosophy perpetually unsettle recognition or the mirror of the ego, leading us to undergo torsions that de-familiarize the world around us, dis-stantiating us from that world. Hume begins with an obvious “common sense” thesis about how we come to know– “all knowledge originates in sensations” –yet in holding fast to this thesis he unsettles all our common sense about knowledge and the world. Husserl begins with an obvious thesis– “look at the things themselves!” –yet in executing this project he unsettles our assumptions about what it is to experience the world and objects, opening a vast domain that continues to challenge central assumptions in cognitive science, psychology, the social sciences, etc.
Distinctions are like lenses. They carve out a world, bringing it into relief like the turning of a hologram, opening domains that were non-existent for us before. A simple concept such as that of feedback in sociology can completely transform how we view “one and the same phenomenon”. Where before we might have viewed the drug addict living in the inner city as an immoral lout who doesn’t have control over his passions, we now see how an entire educational, social, and economic milieu functions to reproduce certain social agents. We ask different questions. Most of our students lack distinction(s). Distinctions alienate by de-familiarizing us with respect to both ourselves and our world. Yet in this void produced in my sense of who I thought I was and my sense of what I thought the world was, in this gap, perhaps for the first time I have the possibility of thinking otherwise and more importantly doing otherwise. Philosophy, along with the other arts, has the capacity to produce such gaps, such agents embodying a void, by plunging students into texts, distinctions, and concepts that unsettle the familiar lifeworld. And perhaps, while also functioning as a part of the cogs that reproduce the conditions of production, the professor that engages in such a pedagogy of alienation also introduces a bit of noise into that machine that might allow for something other than that machine to come to be.

9 Responses to “Teaching, ISA’s, and the Pedagogy of Alienation”
Joseph Kugelmass Says: February 2, 2008 at 11:00 pm
This astonishing essay so far exceeds the rather undefined telos of my tag that, first and foremost, I want to thank you for writing it. I’ve been working on a dissertation prospectus, and am about to be away from the keyboard for the weekend, but when I have the leisure to take up these issues again next week the first thing I’ll do is link this like crazy.
The dissertation is about how, in certain works of modernist literature, alienation is a form of social hope. In part, this is because of the kinds of displacements and provocations, very much in the Socratic mode, that you are describing here. At the same time, it’s probably worth stressing the dialectical element to these experiences of alienation. They are also new sources of identification and comfort; for example, the students who reads Deleuze or Sartre for the first time has an encounter that, if she is in sympathy with the texts, becomes an alienated bond. Of course, the teacher or author is always capable of disavowing this, the text may protest against it — the sort of nervous distancing one finds everywhere in Nietzsche. But from my point of view this is not always necessary, nor did it exist in Nietzsche except alongside a great capacity for friendship, albeit one that remained mostly abstract (with the exceptions of Burckhardt, Reé, Wagner of course, and a few others).
In my own experience, the most aggravating thing about extended discussions of pedagogy is not so much the grand narrative of Jeffersonian education, but rather the petty narratives about student attention, student memory, “relevance,” and so forth. One takes the approach of a marketer or advertiser in considering how to present information to students, and the approach of middle management when it comes to putting them to work, often on the basis of what we might call “theories of the human” that have hardly been put to the test. Nonetheless, whenever I myself am producing grand narratives, I have a simultaneous sense of their truth and their contemptibility, mostly because they consistently under-privilege curiosity and imagination.
I was very sorry to read about your friend’s illness, and hope there has been good news.
larvalsubjects Says: February 3, 2008 at 12:36 am
Thanks Joseph. I look forward to seeing the dissertation develop. Your point about friendship is an exceptionally important one, and probably overshadowed by my dramatic language of “alienation”. I don’t think a critical pedagogy can function or be effective if there isn’t simultaneously an element of collaboration or friendship at work in the classroom as well. This would be the element of transference in the classroom– almost never discussed in mainstream discussions of pedagogy –which establishes the grounds under which something can be learned. If there’s no transferential bond at work in the classroom (or elsewhere), then we do not hear the other who is addressing us. It’s as if they were invisible. On the other hand, transference need not be positive to be effective. Some of my most productive theoretical moments have emerged in moments of extreme hostility, such as those times when Anthony, Adam and I were going at it. I can’t imagine what such an agon would look like in the classroom there.
I wonder about the degree to which the negative discussions about students aren’t reflective about an educator’s own transference. That is, these complaints strike me as symptoms worthy of analysis. They speak to something other than “poor students”. Therapists occasionally make similar complaints about “bad patients”.
Thanks for the kind words about my mother. Things aren’t looking good, though it’s difficult to determine whether the things going on are immediately life-threatening or will be drawn out over many years. Her body is basically attacking itself and slowly devouring itself from the inside. This has been going on for many years, but has accelerated recently and is leading to more life threatening conditions. It’s difficult to see a person who is so wonderful, so good to other people, so interesting, and so beautiful (she looks like Audrey Hepburn but is as frail as a dried flower) suffer so absurdly.
J Martin Says: February 3, 2008 at 1:27 am
Hi Sinthome,
Now I begin to see the appeal of your pedagogy. I think your classroom politics are exemplary, if very intricate. Such a carefully considered approach to teaching is laudable. I also want to offer my sympathy for your mother’s illness. I’m so sorry for her suffering and for yours. There aren’t many consoling expressions I can come up with, but I am, from this moment on, your admirer for what that’s worth.
larvalsubjects Says: February 3, 2008 at 2:23 am
I appreciate that J Martin, however I also find discussions of pedagogy extremely productive in making my own implicit practices explicit through encounters with otherness, so by all means share your own practices or views. In my own view, those of us in the humanities are practicing a sort of “alchemy”, where the aims of our teaching and the nature of our practice are very much up in the air. I’m thankful to Joe for promoting a cross-blog discussion on these matters– in keeping with his New Years discontents about the absence of such discussions in the last year –and certainly welcome spirited and conceptually creative discussions about these matters. So have at it. Let’s hear your practice!
larvalsubjects Says: February 3, 2008 at 2:24 am
And I should add… Increasingly the place of our practice is a central issue. I assume this is especially poignant for Joseph whose discipline is increasingly under assault.