Detritus

Gleaned by Jason Wilson

Detritus

Stuff from all over, gleaned by Jason Wilson

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Posessing a peal of bells was a prerequisite of modernity in a society increasingly subject to haste but as yet without any other means of transmitting information instantaneously. The bell was also the voice of authority and the means by which public announcements were made. It prevailed over rumour because it alone could mark what was new in the sea of truth…

The rural peals of the nineteenth century, which have become for us the sound of another time, were listened to, and evaluated according to a system of affects which is now lost to us. They bear witness to a different relation to the world and to the sacred as well as a different way of being inscribed in time and space, and of experiencing time and space. The reading of the auditory environment would then constitute one of the procedures involved in the construction of identities, both of individuals and of communities. Bell ringing constituted a language and founded a system of communication that has gradually broken down. It gave rhythm to forgotten ways of relating between individuals and between the living and the dead. It made possible forms of expression, now lost to us, of rejoicing and conviviality.

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- Alain Corbin Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the 19th-Century French Countryside. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.



"For some time now, one of the most successful tactics of the ruling class has been responsibilisation. Each individual member of the subordinate class is encouraged into feeling that their poverty, lack of opportunities, or unemployment, is their fault and their fault alone. Individuals will blame themselves rather than social structures, which in any case they have been induced into believing do not really exist (they are just excuses, called upon by the weak).What Smail calls ‘magical voluntarism’ – the belief that it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want to be – is the dominant ideology and unofficial religion of contemporary capitalist society, pushed by reality TV ‘experts’ and business gurus as much as by politicians. Magical voluntarism is both an effect and a cause of the currently historically low level of class consciousness. It is the flipside of depression – whose underlying conviction is that we are all uniquely responsible for our own misery and therefore deserve it. A particularly vicious double bind is imposed on the long-term unemployed in the UK now: a population that has all its life been sent the message that it is good for nothing is simultaneously told that it can do anything it wants to do."



Mentors: Sianne Ngai on Stanley Cavell

lareviewofbooks:


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Apple © Jeffrey Hayes

I was a grad student in English at Harvard in the mid-90s, but physically there for just three years, anxious to move to Brooklyn for a relationship as soon as I became ABD. In that brief but intense period of time, I tried to take as many courses offered by Stanley Cavell as possible. In my last year, I asked him to be a member of my dissertation committee. Looking back I’m still flooded with gratitude (and astonishment) by the fact that he said yes.

At the time I couldn’t have said why I felt so attuned to Cavell’s writing. I just knew, after reading his essay on moods in Emerson and Nietzsche (“Aversive Thinking”) and then his books on Thoreau and remarriage comedy (The Senses of Walden, Pursuits of Happiness), that I wanted to read more, and to think and talk with him as much as possible about the things he thought were interesting. All the more so when I realized that, in person, Stanley Cavell was exactly like the voice his writing projected. That voice, no matter what it happened to be speaking about — Shakespeare and the avoidance of love, Jacques Derrida and J. L. Austin, the Hollywood women’s film of the 1930s and 40s — was unfailingly generous and infectiously interesting. It was a meta-philosophical voice, preoccupied less with the wrongness of skepticism (that is, with skepticism understood as intellectual error, thereby capable of intellectual correction) than with its status as a basic condition of human life and also as a kind of madness, a denial of our shared reality with other minds. Cavell’s voice was a kind of therapy against that madness. It was also an utterly and profoundly non-snobby voice: the voice of a philosopher concerned with philosophy’s aversion to the ordinary, and with the nondiscursive aspects of ordinary language — its affect and force, its ontology as action — that seemed to interest so few other philosophers of language at the time. It was, finally and significantly, the voice of someone deeply interested in how gender inflects both of these problems.

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The charge of conservatism leveled against Wittgenstein’s philosophy relies on an image of the philosopher as existing within a language-game that resembles a prison. Criticism is considered inconceivable because, so the charge continues, Wittgenstein eliminates those higher levels of conceptualization that distinguish philosophical heights from the ordinary. This is accurate only if a philosopher finds herself or himself anchored in one language-game for a lifetime. This fixity is almost impossible in the world Wittgenstein describes. He posits a plurality of language-games, themselves expanding and contracting, abutting and overlapping, whose rules – even those that distinguish one language-game from another – are permeable. The peregrinations of philosophers, as well as others, engender notice of differences between language-games. These differences among the constellation of language-games one travels throughout life are both the source of criticism and what we might call individuality.

The implication of Wittgenstein’s perspective for political theory is that he exposes conservatism, a celebration of a form of nationalism or disciplinarity, in the fixity of the political theorist.  Of course the image of the theorist on the mountaintop, on society’s periphery, as an exile, as well-fed and clothed homo sacer, is a metaphor or allegory for the uniqueness of the theorist’s perspective in comparison to that of the citizen.  Wittgenstein’s criticism of the epic self-image of the theorist responds to the ethical blindness encouraged by the fixity and transcendence this image rests upon.  He counters with a traveling image that is immanent, picture-shattering, and certainly not conservative.

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"At the heart of Wittgenstein’s view that the forms human life takes are predicated on habits and customs is the contention that what is does not have to be. When facing ethnic strife, sexism, totalitarianism, and other forms of violence and injustice, the utopian dimension of theorizing politics can be emboldened by the idea that change toward justice is not a matter of contravening metaphysical absolutes or rewriting the book of nature; rather, it is a matter, difficult still, of breaking bad habits, altering consciousness, eliminating oppressive institutions, denaturalizing domination, eliminating laws (recognizing they can be eliminated) that disenfranchise traditionally subjugated groups and writing laws that are inclusive and promote democratic participation."



William Connolly, “Post-Sovereign Pluralist Politics” in Terrell Carver & Samuel Chambers (eds) William E. Connolly: Democracy, Pluralism & Politicsl Theory London: Routledge, 2007: 115

William Connolly, “Post-Sovereign Pluralist Politics” in Terrell Carver & Samuel Chambers (eds) William E. Connolly: Democracy, Pluralism & Politicsl Theory London: Routledge, 2007: 115

"I consider that Cavell is right to stress that what Wittgenstein’s philosophy exemplifies is not a quest for certainty but a quest for responsibility, and that what he teaches us is that entering a claim is making an assertion and is something that humans do and for which they should be responsible. This emphasis on the moment of decision and on responsibility enables us to envisage democratic politics in a different way because it subverts the ever-present temptation in democratic societies to disguise existing forms of exclusion under the veil of rationality or of morality. By precluding the possibility of a complete reabsorption of alterity into ‘oneness and harmony’, this insistence on the need to leave the conversation on justice forever open establishes the basis for a project of ‘radical and plural democracy’."



- Chantal Mouffe, ‘Wittgenstein, democracy and political theory’, in The Democratic Paradox, London: Verso, 2005: 76.



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11 Think of the tools in a toolbox: there is a hammer, pliers, a saw, a screwdriver, a rule, a glue-pot, glue, nails and screws. The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects. (And in both cases there are similarities.)

Of course, what confuses us is the uniform appearance of words when we hear them in speech, or see them written or in print. For their use is not that obvious. Especially when we are doing philosophy!

12 It is like looking into the cabin of a locomotive. There are handles there, all looking more or less alike. (This stands to reason, since they are all supposed to be handled.) But one is the handle of a crank, which can be moved continuously (it regulates the opening of a valve); another is the handle of a switch, which has only two operative positions: it is either off or on; a third is the handle of a brake- lever, the harder one pulls on it, the harder the braking; a fourth, the handle of a pump: it has an effect only so long as it is moved to and fro.

13 If we say, “Every word in the language signifies something”, we have so far said nothing whatever; unless we explain exactly what distinction we wish to make. (It might be, of course, that we wanted to distinguish the words of language (8) from words ‘without meaning’ such as occur in Lewis Carroll’s poems, or words like “Tra-la-la” in a song.)

14 Suppose someone said, “All tools serve to modify something. So, a hammer modifies the position of a nail, a saw the shape of a board, and so on.” a And what is modified by a rule, a glue-pot and nails? a “Our knowledge of a thing’s length, the temperature of the glue, and the solidity of a box.” —– Would anything be gained by this assimilation of expressions?

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- Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations (4th Edition) Blackwell, 2009: 9e-10e.



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The west – run by a generation that believes the market is the solution to everything – suddenly found you cannot outsource strategy; that there are situations in which the boss of JP Morgan cannot help you; and that the pursuit of legally dubious wars of conquest, by legally indefensible means, flattens the public appetite for force for a generation.

If Russia invades Ukraine its likely aim will be to partition it; its longer term aim will be to get the west to accept that partition and carry on as normal.

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Film critics are perfectly capable of posing the standard, well-worn questions about the female body and the male gaze. The summer blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness drew flack for its (far more ridiculous) underwear scene, as did Blue is the Warmest Color for its pornified lesbian sex. But in both of these cases, the bodies we see onscreen are clearly meant to titillate. Bullock claims that this was not her or Cuarón’s intention. Her intense, pre-Gravity workout regimen was a means of getting into character, she argues: “I wanted to remove what she looked like as a woman, what reminded her of being feminine and motherly, just so that the body was a machine.” Indeed, the critics who praise her body don’t seem to lust after it so much as wish they possessed it. It is the achievement of a woman at the top of her career. Through a combination of hard work and the most up-to-date technology, Bullock appears to have beaten age. But it’s hard to find her body sexy, because one can’t imagine touching her: She doesn’t look pliable, or even tangible.

Bodies in 3D cinema appear to have volume but no mass. The 3D body is hollow, a hologram; blood and guts don’t seem to animate it. Action films once made much of their protagonists’ pain. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis winced through every bruise and blow while maintaining his ironic cool. By contrast, Bullock’s body appears invulnerable. But she is anything but cool-headed. Her anxiety doesn’t seem to come from the threat of physical pain. Rather, she is overwhelmed with the amount of information she must process: coordinates, shuttle manuals, ornate procedures. Like a junior law associate trying to keep up with an ever-increasing workload, Bullock remains physically safe as she grows ever more spiritually shaken. More than any recent Hollywood film, Gravity presents the body as mere operational device, a cursor, an avatar who performs a set of actions. It is workflow cinema.

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I would suggest that it leads us to picture the humanities as something like a form of life, or better, because vaguer still, as something like a world, an institutionalized world. A world that contains smaller worlds. A simultaneously beleaguered and privileged world whose members typically belong to other, somewhat ontologically similar worlds, too.

The main reason to think in such terms is to avoid betraying what is central to the humanities: that they cannot be properly defined in terms of their parts, in terms, for instance, of their instrumentalities or avoidance of instrumentality, or of the dispositions they nurture, or of the interests they nourish and serve, or of the knowledge and techniques they produce, or of the professional/bureaucratic protocols they enact; or of the ethics perhaps still installed within them. They cannot be limited to their constitutive rules or methods or personae or models or “values.” Those who join them can find their own paths through them and the rule-bound institutions they are based in, outside of essences and definitions, making their own connections and alliances, as in a world. And they don’t share a single project, if indeed they have projects at all.

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The monsters that are waging a struggle for power in the Ukrainian capital are constantly changing places, like partners in a dance. All of them now have spent time in power, if not on a national then at least on a local level. All of them, including the neo-fascists from the “Svoboda” party, have managed to be caught embezzling. All of them show an identical determination to defend and maintain the existing socioeconomic order, whose crisis is obvious.

However events now develop, it can be stated that the specifically Ukrainian model of democracy, built on an equilibrium between two oligarchic blocs, is coming to an end. Whichever group wins out in Kiev, it will be able to hold onto power only by establishing a harsh authoritarian regime. In this situation, the question of who should be considered the less and who the greater evil is simplified immensely. The “greater evil” will inevitably be the group that achieves victory. Meanwhile, we shall be able with complete justification to designate the group that goes down to defeat as the “lesser evil”, since unlike the victor, it will not succeed in realising its destructive potential.

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Parties have “lost the ability to control the process,” said Jim Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, partly because of legislation that cut the flow of money to party committees. “The party can’t coordinate with these super PACs and neither can the campaigns, so there’s a lot more chaos and disequilibrium in the campaigns. And the party structure clearly has a diminished role because they don’t have the resources they used to have.”

Rob Stein, a founder of the Democracy Alliance, one of the largest clubs of donors on the left, agreed.

“The devolution of the two-party system has begun,” Mr. Stein said. “Money is leaving the parties and going to independent expenditure groups. These now are fracturing the ‘big tents’ of our old two-party system into independent, narrow and well-funded wings.”

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Nice thought leading on this @mrgrumpystephen

(Source: Spotify)