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Where The World Is Headed

“At some point in the near future there will no longer be a distinction between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality,” writes Ray Kurzweil. Technological change will be so rapid “that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” Brains will be uploaded to the Internet. The act of death may become a choice rather than a necessity – an option or changeable setting in a clone’s operating system, according to Jean Baudrillard. The Singularity, says Kurzweil, is upon us.


Male-Female Relations

It is commonly assumed that the person who takes the initiative in relationships is the one who is in command. But this is not true, argues the existentialist Donald Wainwright: “The audience is always one up on the performer. They are the passive judges. The performer must please them. The initiative, the responsibility for the success of the occasion rests on the performer…If ‘A’ must please ‘B’, how can ‘A’ ever be in command?”


"A Deep, Lasting Defeatism Of The Real"

There once existed a world that spoke to reflective thought and the creative imagination, Henri Lefebvre tells us. A world that held a certain mystery and mystical dimension, that was “serious, deep, cosmic.” It disappeared, and its loss was felt particularly by exceptionally bright minds. Is such a world recoverable? How can the search for it be undertaken without introducing false paths and “smuggling in all manner of dehumanization”?


Losing One’s Sense Of Belonging

“We do not meet one another as persons in the several aspects of our total life, but know one another only fractionally, as the man who fixes the car, or as that girl who serves our lunch, or as the woman who takes care of our child at school,” C. Wright Mills once observed. “Pre-judgement and prejudice flourish when people meet people only in this segmental manner. The humanistic reality of others does not, cannot, come through.”

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Reference Section

Bon Mot Archive

Bon Mot

"Habit and routine are great veils over our existence. As long as they are securely in place, we need not consider what life means; its meaning seems sufficiently incarnate in the triumph of the daily habit.”

– William Barrett, Irrational Man


“The endless cycle of idea and action, endless invention, endless experiment, brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness; knowledge of speech, but not of silence; knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word. All our knowledge brings us nearer to death, but nearness to death no nearer to God. Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

– T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from the Rock”


"For this is the truth: I have moved from the house of the scholars and I even banged the door behind me. My soul sat hungry at their table too long; I am not, like them, trained to pursue knowledge as if it were nutcracking. I love freedom and the air over the fresh earth; rather would I sleep on ox hides than on their decorums and respectabilities."

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


"Shame is by nature recognition. I recognize that I am as the Other sees me...The Other...is presented in a certain sense as the radical negation of my experience, since he is the one for whom I am not subject but object. Therefore as the subject of knowledge I strive to determine as object the subject who denies my character as subject and who himself determines me as object."

– Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness


"He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers."

– Charles Péguy, Basic Verities


















IN THE ARCHIVE

Philosophy And Depression

Contrary to what is often supposed, depression may not be some “disease” that needs to be extirpated from the mind; it might instead be a natural reaction to one's social surroundings and situation – the healthy suspicion that the life people have actually created, the “structure of society,” is not one worth participating in.


Rules Of Influence

A generation or two ago, many young adults emerged from college with their idealism intact and their interest in dead poets and philosophers undiminished. In recent times that’s changed: now money, career, and access to the rich and famous trump any inkling to be better rounded and a little wiser. What these aspiring careerists need is not a lecture about their false choice, but an ironist’s guide to competing in the rat race.


Philosophers’ Role In Society

"The profession of philosophy did not always have the narrow and specialized meaning it now has," William Barrett tells us in one of his influential works. "In ancient Greece it had the very opposite: instead of a specialized theoretical discipline, philosophy was a concrete way of life, a total vision of man and the cosmos in the light of which the individual's whole life was to be lived. These earliest philosophers among the Greeks were seers, poets, almost shamans."

























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Of Celebrities And Media

By Lewis Lapham

The camera sees but doesn’t think. Whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, the object of its affection doesn’t matter; what matters is the surge and volume of emotion that it engenders and evokes, the floods of consciousness drawn as willingly to a blood bath in Afghanistan as to a bubble bath in Paris. As the habits of mind beholden to the rule of images come to replace the structures of thought derived from the meaning of words, the constant viewer eliminates the association of cause with effect, learns that nothing necessarily follows from anything else…

Celebrity is about being, not becoming. Once possessed of the sovereign power to find a buyer, all celebrity is royal. The images of wealth and power demand nothing of their votaries other than the duty of ritual obeisance. The will to learn gives way to a being in the know, which is the instant recognition of the thousands of logos encountered in the course of a day’s shopping and an evening’s programming…Celebrities of various magnitudes become the familiar spirits of insurance policies and shaving creams, breathe the gift of life into tubes of deodorant, awaken with their personal touch the spirit dormant in the color of a lipstick or a bottle of perfume. The wishful thinking moves the merchandise, accounts not only for high-end appearance fees ($3 million to Mariah Carey to attend a party; $15,000 for five minutes in the presence of Donald Trump) but also for the Wall Street market in nonexistent derivatives and the weapons of mass destruction gone missing in Iraq…

Like the camera, the market moves but doesn’t think, drawn as willingly to the production of nuclear warheads as to the growing of oranges or grapes. It doesn’t recognize such a thing as a poor celebrity. Celebrity is money with a human face, the “pegs” and “loops” on which to hang the dream of riches that is “the darling passion” of the American breast. Bipartisan and nondenominational, the hero with a thousand faces unfortunately doesn’t evolve into a human being. Let money become the seat of power and the font of wisdom, and the story ends with an economy gone bankrupt, an army that wins no wars, and a politics composed of brightly colored balloons.


Modern Human Relations

By Theodor Adorno

Private relations between people seem modelled on the industrial bottleneck. In even the smallest community the level is determined by the most subaltern of its members. Anyone who, in conversation, talks over the head of even one person, is tactless. For the sake of humanity talk is restricted to the most obvious, dullest and tritest matters, if just one inhuman face is present.

Now that the world has made men speechless, not to be on speaking terms is to be in the right. The wordless need only stick immovably to their interests and their natures to get their way. It is enough that the other, vainly seeking contact, falls into a pleading or soliciting tone, for him to be at a disadvantage. Since the bottleneck knows of no court of appeal higher than that of fact, while thought and speech necessarily point to one, intelligence becomes naivety, and blockheads seize on this as irrefutable fact.


“I Don’t Want To Be A Brand”

By Danielle Leduc

(The following is excerpted from the March/April 2013 edition of Adbusters.)

“I don’t want to be a designer, a marketer, an illustrator, a brander, a social-media consultant, a multi-platform guru, an interface wizard, a writer of copy, a technological assistant, an applicator, an aesthetic king, a notable user, a profit-maximizer, a bottom-line analyzer, a meme generator, a hit tracker, a re-poster, a sponsored blogger, a starred commentator, an online retailer, a viral relayer, a handle, a font or a page. I don’t want to be linked in, tuned in, ‘liked,’ incorporated, listed or programmed. I don’t want to be a brand, a representative, an ambassador, a bestseller or a chart-topper. I don’t want to be a human resource or part of your human capital.

“I don’t want to be an entrepreneur of myself.

“Don’t listen to the founders, the employers, the newspapers, the pundits, the editors, the forecasters, the researchers, the branders, the career counselors, the prim minister, the job market, Michel Foucault or your haughty brother in finance – there’s something else!

“I want to be a lover, a teacher, a wanderer, an assembler of words, a sculptor of immaterial, a maker of instruments, a Socratic philosopher and an erratic muse. I want to be a community center, a piece of art, a wonky cursive script and an old-growth tree! I want to be a disrupter, a creator, an apocalyptic visionary, a master of reconfiguration, a hypocritical parent, an illegal download and a choose-your-own-adventure!…

“I want to be a curator of myself, an anti-preneur, a person.

“Unlimited availabilities. No followers required. Only friends.”


Darkening Of The World

The following is an excerpt from Marjorie Grene's essay "Martin Heidegger" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ms. Grene passed away in March 2009; she wrote some two dozen books, among which are works on Sartre and Heidegger.

The "darkening of the world" is Heidegger's constant theme. So, for example, in Holzwege ("Woodpaths," 1950), he tells us that we live in the age of research, of the planned, systematic coordination of intellectual tasks. And what sort of tasks can be planned and coordinated? Neat, limited, manageable tasks -- tasks, primarily, that demand inventiveness rather than understanding, tasks for engineering know-how rather than theoretical insight. Heidegger draws no line between pure and applied science. Science for him is research, and research is a procedure for solving well-packaged problems. Such problems are, in general, those of manufacture, of inventing new and better gadgets. According to Heidegger, das Herstellbare, the collection of gadgets, is what we are after; that is what specialization, the rigid departmental structure of expertise in our society, amounts to. And all this vast proliferation of technical skills nevertheless has its inner unity -- that is, its historical and metaphysical unity. It had to happen this way. It had to happen this way because we are fallen out of Being. We are more concerned with beings, from genes to space ships, than with our true calling, which is to be shepherds and watchers of Being. So it is that we are lost, and Being itself has become a haze and an error -- nothing.


(See more from Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Excerpts & Passages: Einstein on God and the Good Life; Jung’s Observation about People; Rilke’s Imaginary Life Journey; Adorno on Modern Human Relations.)

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