Monday, August 29, 2011

Descartes's Philosophy: "Made in Bavaria"

Over the last few days, I have been putting the finishing touches on a paper on what I call "Cartesian egalitarianism," which discusses the work of Descartes, Poullain de la Barre, Beauvoir, and Rancière. As you can imagine, getting the connections between these four into focus has been fairly time-consuming, especially the effort of keeping the paper right near the upper limits of the word count (9000 words, if you're curious). Which is why I haven't been posting much. 

At some point, while reading and writing about Descartes, I had the vague recollection that Schelling had made an odd 'nationalist in an imagined communities kind of way' comment about Descartes in his On the History of Modern Philosophy. These kind of comments are usually associated with Hegel, but Schelling was not inoculated against them. Turning to page 45, we discover that Descartes's philosophy was "made in Bavaria" (note that it also ends with a reference to Spinoza):
A special peculiarity lies for us in the fact that this beginning of completely free philosophy was, to all appearances, made in Bavaria, that, therefore, the foundation of modern philosophy was laid here. Descartes had, as he says himself in his essay De Methodo, which I take this opportunity to recommend to everyone as a splendid exercise, come to Germany in order to see the beginning of the Thirty Years' War; he had been present under Maximilian I at the battle on the white mountain and the capture of Prague, where, though, he primarily only made inquiries about Tycho Brahe and his unpublished work. In 1619, when he returned to the camp from Frankfurt, from the coronation of Ferdinand II, he had his winter quarters in a place on the Bavarian border, where he, as he says, found no one with whom he would have liked to converse, and there he conceived (aged twenty-three) the first ideas of his philosophy, which he, however, published much later. In the same way as Descartes began to philosophise in Bavaria, he later found in Princess Elisabeth, daughter of the unfortunate Elector of the Palatinate, Karl Friedrich, the so-called Winter King, a great and devoted admirer, just as it was later again a prince from the house of the Palatinate who became Spinoza's protector.
The irony of these kinds of statements is that they provide ample evidence for Marx's sarcastic remark that "we Germans have experienced our future history in thought, in philosophy. We are philosophical contemporaries without being historical ones. German philosophy is the ideal prolongation of German history."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Henry Miller, "Bathroom Monologue"

In his book Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller wrote, "Everybody says sex is obscene. The only true obscenity is war." I agree. This "Bathroom Monologue" is far from obscene. So many magical things he created surrounding a world of shit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Congratulations to Dr. McLennan

We've given numerous panels together, participated in jam sessions and impromptu performances (see below), and now I would like to extend my congratulations to our fellow blogger Matt McLennan, who successfully defended his dissertation "Wild Normativity: Lyotard's Search for an Ethical Antihumanism" yesterday.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The First Review of The Schelling Book

Symposium has published the first review (to my knowledge) of my Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art (technically speaking I know of another review that has been written but it has yet to be published by the journal that accepted it). The review is by Jeremy Proulx, of Eastern Michigan University, and it is generally positive. In any case, Proulx concludes:
In the end, Shaw’s careful analysis of the various ways in which art is significant for Schelling provides a sorely-needed guide for readers of Schelling’s difficult work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Charles Bukowski and I Ranting Poems to the Sounds of Riots

The Arab Spring ignited in Tunisia, demonstrations against anti-union laws in various parts of the US, right-wing violence in Norway, violent neo-Nazis skinheads in Russia, riots in Greece, demonstrations in Israel, riots in London, and massive destitution in Somalia. All these events are linked to the global economic order that can't seem to improve the conditions on the planet the way wealth is being advanced for a handful of people. Actually, conditions are being made worse. Poems and music can get us through these times as they always have.

Here are two poems by Charles Bukowski and one by me:

ground zero

the consensus is that this is a difficult time,
perhaps the most difficult of times:
large groups of people in cities
all over the world are
protesting that they'd rather not be
treated like shit.

but whoever's in control
will not listen.

the suggestion is that, of course, it's
only one power fighting another power
and the real power, of course, is in the hands
of the few who run the nations
and their need is to protect those many things
that belong to them.

it is conceivable that these few rulers
will escape
when the final eruption begins;
they will escape to their safe havens
where they will watch
the eruption to its finish,
and then after a reasonable wait
they will return
again and
will begin building
a new ridiculous and grossly
unfair future.

which, to me, is not a very
happy thought
as I crack open a can of beer
on a hot
July night.

sometimes when you get the blues there's a reason

it only takes 6 or 8 inept political leaders
or 8 or 10 artsy-fartsy writers, composers and painters to
set the natural course of human progress
50 years
or more.
which may not seem like much to you
but it's over half your lifetime
during which time you're not going to be able to
hear, see, read or feel that
necessary gift of great art which
otherwise you could have experienced.
which may not seem tragic to you
but sometimes, perhaps, when you're not feeling so
good at
night or in the morning or at
maybe what you feel that's lacking is
what should be there for
but is not.
and I don't mean a blonde in
sheer pantyhose,
I'm talking about what gnaws at your guts
even when she's

(my poem)

Escapist With a Gun

666 governments gone bad.
777 revolutions minus 111 points
After the revolutions get government.
I’ll stay in my room on the internet,
Watch a good amount of headless girls
Dancing on Youtube in panties and tank tops,
Terydactyl porn on weird websites,
And learn the latest news about
Charlie Sheen.
My Bible is next to Marx, next to
Buddhist sutras, next to Lenin,
Next to Dylan Thomas, next to the TV,
Next to the whiskey bottle, next to my rifle
And a great anthology of Gandhi’s works.
My mother always says, “Two wrongs
Don’t make a right.” My mother
Doesn’t like me owning guns
Drinking whiskey or reading Marx.
Truth is, if one is going to own a gun
It is good to know whom to aim at
If the shit goes down.
I’ll load the bullets, get my Bible,
And eliminate every Canaanite
In the Holy Land as it tells me to.
Never mind, I’ll shoot the bourgeoisie.
Never mind, I’ll put the gun away.
I’ll do the Gandhi Path. Never mind,
He made a mess out of creating the split
Between India and Pakistan. Never mind,
I’ll take a drink. Never mind, I’ll take drinks.
“I will not go gentle into that good night.”
The chained masses can join me.
At some point we’ll figure out what to do.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

There's a Riot Goin' On

As I'm sure you've heard, riots have broken out in several neighborhoods in London. In response (to the idiotic elite/media responses) Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb has posted a "sarcastic itinerary" of "reactionary birdsong" that's worth reading. In addition, I recommend the analysis of Laurie Penny (of Penny Red, which I've somehow missed up until now):
Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.
Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news.
There's clearly a class antagonism aspect to these events--and given the widespread attempt to implement austerity measures within the metropoles of capital (through, for example, bullshit manufactured debt crises) as the latest of tactics in three or more decades of neoliberal governance, this riot might only be the harbinger of unrest to come.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Zizek on Breivik and Antisemitism

After Joshua wrote a post on Anders Breivik, we started receiving a boost in traffic in google searches for "zizek breivik." Today in The Guardian is that article I suppose people were waiting for, Zizek's "A Vile Logic to Anders Breivik's Choice of Target." Zizek points out a number of hypocrisies in European responses to the rise of anti-immigrant populism, aided and abetted, I might add, by what Rancière calls 'racism from above.' A prime example is the way that some of the more opportunist right-wing sympathizers have tried to use Breivik's attacks as device to introduce the reconsideration of "multiculturalism" or immigration, revealing a clear double standard in the ways that domestic right-wing violence and other acts of violence are treated. 

This is what makes certain parts of Zizek's argument so pertinent. He notes that Breivik is antisemitic but pro-Israel, a stance that might seem contradictory, but isn't due to a kind of antisemitic paternalism: "the state of Israel is the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion" (this is similar to the way that some Christian Zionists believe that the state of Israel must exist to fulfill Christian prophecy, but otherwise...). I've emphasized what I take to be the most stinging line in the article regarding this series of hypocrisies:
A key is provided by the reactions of the European right to Breivik's attack: its mantra was that in condemning his murderous act, we should not forget that he addressed "legitimate concerns about genuine problems" – mainstream politics is failing to address the corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism, or, to quote the Jerusalem Post, we should use the Oslo tragedy "as an opportunity to seriously re-evaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere". The newspaper has since apologised for this editorial. (Incidentally, we are yet to hear a similar interpretation of the Palestinian acts of terror, something like "these acts of terror should serve as an opportunity to re-evaluate Israeli politics".)
This (the discourse that Zizek is criticizing) is an entirely self-serving logic: if one attempts to get at the root causes of Palestinian violence, one is apologizing for or sympathizing with it (right, it could never be that one should criticize the ways that one's own way of life is enmeshed in social relations that dominate others...); however, right-wing violence affords the opportunity to discuss "legitimate concerns"--an opportunity to reinforce imperialist or settler-colonialist prejudices.