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Archive for February, 2013



Many contemporary psychologists make the mistake of conflating effect with intent. That is, they reason from the observed effects backwards to some sort of goal or objective that someone “had.” Someone who experiences recurrent chaos in relationships, school or work is presumed to be “self-sabotaging.” And if the person doesn’t endorse awareness of this, psychologists put the intent into some sort of unconscious place. Freudians put it in the drives, Lacanians in the chain of signification, others into some general rule following heuristic. This habit seems to me as misguided as the custom of putting the cause of the universe in God.



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why was i born with this body that betrays love at every opportunity? that kills every dream i have ever had? can we love, what doesn’t even exist?



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how did the universe begin? hard to say. if the universe began with a space-time event, something must have caused that event. the cause must also be localizable in space-time, so the universe must have begun at some time prior to what we thought was its beginning. but that event also must have had a cause and since this goes on ad infinitum the universe must have no concretely localizable point of origin in space-time. but that’s impossible because if it had no point of origin it would not exist, and it clearly does exist, so it must have a point of origin in space-time even if it is not readily identifiable. we must therefore conclude that we cannot say anything intelligible about the origin of the universe. the data is elsewhere. not accessible.



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Speaking as a “pragmatist,” I’m asking the question: are your behaviors more usefully modeled by someone’s notion of “rationalism” or “empiricism?” I’m not interested in the question of whether you are a rationalist or an empiricist. That would make me a “rationalist” of sorts and I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatist of sorts. Which is to say, an existentialist empiricist phenomenologist humanist deconstructor of words and assays.



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The dispute between rationalism and empiricism comes down to a difference of opinion re: metaphysics. Do words grant us access to something eternal and unchanging, the “world,” “truth,” or “knowledge?” Are words an anchor to reality or are they like foam on a wave, tossed about in the winds of an uncaring universe? Are we truly alone?



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Lately it seems to me that the entire world has just totally lost it. My life has been filled with violence it seems in all spheres – walking down the street, at work, past events coming back to bite me in the ass, etc, etc, etc. This morning on the subway, I was thinking about human behavior in terms of energy. If a system is excessively loaded up with energy, an over filled balloon for example, it is in a very unstable state. What that means is that the cohesive forces of the balloon’s elastic walls are just barely able to contain the high pressure air. One small pin prick and the balloon releases all its unstable energy – that is, it explodes. Humans seem very similar. When someone is very emotionally vulnerable, the system is in an unstable, high energy configuration. One small pin prick (a word, a frown, a noise, a mistaken gesture) is enough to release all the energy in one massive explosion. We’ve either got to find a way to deflate our balloons or stop poking each other with seemingly innocent pin sticks.



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On the one hand we could criticize the medical model for encouraging tolerance of a self-destructive world: we find a way to cure an illness and so are less likely to inquire into the often self-imposed causes of the illness. Curative medicine weakening our pursuit of preventative medicine. On the other hand we could ask whether the two models are in fact mutually exclusive? Is the use of technology always already accompanied by enslavement to technology, like a world of Gollums, forever searching for our unattainable precious? Or can we learn to live more like Aragorn and the Hobbits, integrating ourselves to the natural world and the wise use of technology, while also not remaining forever naive, as the Elves ultimately are, to the real needs of middle earth?



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There are many times when I think that the liberal agenda would be better served by abandoning government altogether and concentrating instead on changing communities, directly.



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Kant is famous for the notion that he felt it necessary to destroy reason in order to make room for faith. But what sort of faith was it? I believe it was the faith that turned God on its head, making God the transcendental concept that we require for our more common sense of practical reason, which is the distinction between morality vs. prudence. In this way, God is no longer center stage, reason is. So in fact it was the other way around: Kant destroyed faith in order to make room for reason. This conclusion depends in part on one’s idea of Kant’s understanding of his own method. For there is a some deal of debate still among contemporary professional philosophers as to whether Kant thought his transcendental method could grant access to the noumenal world. Indeed, it is a tantalizing question: why speak of a noumenal world at all if one believes one cannot access it in some way (even if only through synthetic a priori judgments)? It’s like the paradox of the sentences that deny their own truth. Do they say anything at all?

I happen to think that Kant very well understood his own method and, along with Hume, was very much a metaphysical iconoclast (destroyer of rationalism). Kierkegaard understood this very well I believe, which is why he re-presented the story of Abraham, the Kantian hero par excellence . The story of teleological suspension of the ethical is the story of a real, living, phenomenal world bound human being in whom we appreciate the abandonment suffered by those who live with Kant’s critical idealism. If Abraham’s categorical imperative was to put no other principles above the commandments of his God, then how can we understand the very real suffering a person experiences in the dialectic of competing de-mands? God sent him a son and then de-manded it back? What madness!? This is only a problem for a being who lives without ultimate certainty: without access to the noumenal. A being with access to the noumenal would never have suffered on the way to Mount Moriah. So torture, suffering, doubt, loneliness – all of these are the conditions associated with our ability to distinguish goodness from prudence. And this can only be so for a being without access to absolute truth. At the same time, truth cannot be said to be completely relative either, for this would be itself another absolute truth which could obviate our suffering. Our suffering is our truth, nothing more and nothing less. That is the koan of human being.



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for those who may already be objecting to the ethics of my prior post: i am aware of its deeply probematic nature in a community struggling with violence. i decided that in the moment i was more concerned with weakening the stigma of self hatred than any other concerns. because self hatred is one variable that strengthens social violence, IMO…



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