Modest Proposals

"I will teach you differences."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

One thing about politics and I’m done for the day (politically): 
The notion that “The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the religious freedom of businesses” is an argument that can “explain” the Supreme Court’s decision is a distortion of argumentation. It, in fact, is not even a reason in support of the Supreme Court’s decision.

This is why: Argumentation requires, at the very least, a claim, grounds for such a claim, and a warrant that provides a connection between the claim and grounds. What we are given when somebody states “The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the religious freedom of businesses” is simply an exertion of a mechanistic cog in a political machine (not even a claim!—for a claim, to be recognized as such, requires grounds). As a matter of course, the common “reason” cannot be a reason—for a “reason” is “reasonable” only within a system of argumentation: and here the possibility is precluded in the very purpose of the movement of the machine.

Saussure and Barthes have taken American neopragmatism and Stanley Fish and everything I thought I understood about the philosophy of language and have murdered it all, but only by liberating it all.

Sociology paper on “gender”

So, I had to write an analysis of “gender” based on concepts from the past four chapters in my sociology textbook. I tried to show that, really, “gender” is a product of scientific inquiry and impossibly so. I also raised the question as to whether sociology tells us anything about society as such.

The sociological concept of “gender” can be analyzed in many ways.  As a construct operative as a given element in the experience of every person, according to sociology, it is an important indicator of who it is people think they are. This is very vague, but any introduction as such remains vague. And in a similar fashion “gender” has many different skeletal structures, all ultimately different from each other, yet similar in the sense that they all, at least in western society, draw a basic contrast between “man” and “woman.”

            Gender is a theory, “a statement of how and why specific facts are related” (34). Gender is a theory about how men and women differ socially and culturally. The fact that the previous sentence is a tautology shows the inherent circuitous position sociology puts itself in when studying gender differences: the theory about how facts are related is not necessarily an articulated possibility in a person’s presentation of self. Perhaps in this sense gender can be described as a latent social function of being biologically different, but I doubt it can be the entire story. It seems reasonable to say that culture has replaced natural selection in at least a few ways, and as a determiner of values, perceptions, etc., culture has created gender as much as people (especially men) have chosen to have a perspective on biological differences (a position generally used to ground patriarchal positions that appeal to “science”). Any feminist post on the Internet will show this: most men refer to historical facts about the subjugation of women (by them perceived to be facts of “nature”) which are used to warrant traditional arguments about the role of women in society. My very observation that certain historical facts are facts about subjugation (especially facts about traditional roles of women in western society) is a cultural byproduct of the work of many women throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (no doubt, I imagine, even earlier than that).

            Whether gender is an operative notion in interactions between people is an entirely different question than whether it is a valid sociological concept. As a theory, it connects observations to answer a “why” question—a very important tool for establishing an intellectual system that can pervade society itself (a latent function of science, no doubt). According to the lens of social-conflict approach, then, sociology can be viewed as a propaganda machine, inserting concepts as “natural” to a culture or society that are in fact fabricated: especially in a scientifically oriented society. But this is what gives gender meaning and gravitas for westerners: it is a scientific theory.

            Is my position inherently sexist? Does it, in fact, ignore and trivialize the oppression of females by saying, really, gender is only meaningful because science has contrived the concept to connect certain observations and then entered it as a candidate for truth in public dialogue? Certainly—but that is why it creates the possibility for feminism, and has the notion of “gender” operative in it. As a construct, it can be reconstructed. By connecting certain observations, feminism has been able to bring to light the oppression of “women.” Women, a theory, are those people who have been paid seventy percent the wages of men, denied basic rights to their own body, are subjugated to the authority of lesser intellects because of the influence of political policies and social norms, the list goes on. By making “gender” a concept, feminists are able to manipulate it to bring about change that was not possible before.

            “Gender” is a linguistic symbol—an arbitrary relationship between a signifier and signified that is made rational when in relationship to other symbols. Although one may change an element in the relationship between signifier and signified, it does not change the symbol: because the symbol still holds its place in relationship to other symbols. This is why simply naming “women” something else will not change sexism or patriarchy. According to the symbolic-interaction approach, symbols change only as actions change—and, as a result, the relationships of differences that defined the symbols are changed. This is one of the latent functions of science, as was previously stated.

            With the concept “gender” comes certain recognizable norms. Such norms are composed of patterns of relationships (how else would one talk about “norms?”) and are therefore candidates for science to include into creating a theory: the observation that women apologize more than men, that women use more tact when correcting others, that women are on average paid less than their other-gendered counterparts, etc. But a question that sociology, perhaps, cannot answer is whether gender constructs an idea of the self in females in societies (“women” is a concept saturated with gender overtones, I am using the biological term at this point to avoid already assuming the answer to my question—yet I also know that “females” and “women” are not synonymous terms, but I am working with a language that gives me only two possibilities for naming a person without assuming a gender) that do not have knowledge of the sciences or do not pay attention to science (here it suffices for my question to assume simply that the female does not pay attention to science—like my younger sister: she has no conception of feminism, just her rights as a person: “You’re not the boss of me;” “I can make my own decisions.”).

At this point it may be obvious that the social construction of reality, whereby people create reality given their background, collides with language: theories are always questionable as to their political and social alliances, since meaning is not an empirically observable phenomena. Naming and making connections between relations is one thing, saying that such relations are necessarily connected is another. Statistics can answer this question only if it assumes an identity between events that cannot be shown to exist but only taken for granted. The notion that there is a cause-effect relationship between what people say and do and the context in which they act and speak is already assuming the paradigm of identity.

This paradigm is most obviously seen at work in the concepts of socialization and personality. Consistency is key—and the fact that a person’s actions can be “predicted” based on their biography seems to reveal the validity of these notions. Gender relations, then, are seen as what they are and called into question as to whether such relations are relations of domination or otherwise. But scientists are realists and assume a distinction which delegitimize theory as such: there is a distinction between what we perceive and what is actually real. This, they say, is the foundation of truth: and we verify the veracity of a claim by making certain that the connections between the claim, on the one hand, and reality, on the other, exists. But such an understanding assumes that “objects” exist without “concepts.” Concept: “a mental construct that represents [emphasis mine] some aspect of the world in a simplified form” (35). There is a world, and then there is a concept that represents some thing in the world.

The position is fundamentally positivistic and renders every concept unintelligible: is love, therefore, not a concept? I cannot find that in the world. I cannot, either, find “table” or “cat.” The formulation is anachronistic at this point in history—projecting on the present a perception that comes from the past. Concepts are only meaningful when they are put to use in a language-game or context. Imagine, for instance, trying to teach a child that a “ball” is a ball by pointing to it. How does the child know what “pointing” means? What if the child took the elbow, for instance, to be the point of departure for examining the world and not the finger? People are trained to use concepts just like we are trained to write, and trained to recognize the function of pointing. Meaning is a function of use—the child who does not know where to look when a person points (just like a cat does not know where to look) does not know what pointing means. Similarly, a child who has yet to put to use the concept of “truth” has yet to learn how to “lie.” Nothing is re-presented by truth; but truth is a question of intentionality and belief—a political move; not a question of what is and is not in the “world.” The question of truth is about the relationships between symbols.

            “World” itself, from the positivistic perspective, must be “an aspect of the world” in order to be a concept.

            “Gender” can be analyzed in many ways. I have tried, at this point, to show a few avenues in which the construct can be examined, tried to show the possibility of such an examination and what it would mean, and have myself tried to come to a few conclusions about the concept. As to the difference between the ways connections are drawn and the possibility of “knowing” whether the presentation of self of females who live in nonscientific societies or who simply ignore sociology are influence by gender is another question. Statistics will not resolve this disparity because at the outset it already assumes a positive answer, being based on a cause-effect perception of reality which, fundamentally relying on the positivistic notion of “concept”, is unintelligible outside the scientific language-game. There is no question in my mind, however, that women have been subjected to patriarchy and that the prospects of feminism promote greater liberty and justice for all and, if only the future can be better than the present, will include more liberative conceptions of the generalized other.

rioghnach robinson

—thus spoke carly rae: a song of friedrich nietzsche






here it is

the final damning evidence that i have no life whatsoever

lyrics at the original post here

The lyric that got matched to “before you came into my life I missed you so bad”, which started the whole thing, is “Is man an error of god’s, or god of man?” i.e. did humans invent god. Now compare Voltaire’s “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”. Nietzche is basically saying, “before god came into our life we missed him so bad.”

EHEHE. we missed Him so bad. we missed God so, so bad.

For reference, the original Nietzsche quote I adapted into that lyric: “Is man merely a mistake of God’s? Or God merely a mistake of man?”

… it is hard to keep nietzsche’s eloquence in lines that have like 6-8 syllables each

(via fyeahnietzsche)

You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.

—Ernest Hemingway, from The Sun Also Rises

What is this question of Being that is necessarily precomprehended in order that thinking itself occur? Since it is always anterior to thinking, it can never be formulated as an answer to the question “what is …:” “The ‘goodness’ of the rightfully demanded ‘good definition’ finds its confirmation in our giving up the wish to define in so far as this must be established on assertions in which thinking dies out… . No information can be given about nothingness and Being and nihilism, about their essence and about the (verbal) essence [it is] of the (nominal) essence [it is] which can be presented tangibly in the form of assertions [it is …].” (QB 8o–81)

This is by far the greatest summation of Heidegger’s thought that has ever been written.

From the moment that the circle turns, that the book is wound back upon itself, that the book repeats itself, its self-identity receives an imperceptible difference which allows us to step effectively, rigorously, and thus discreetly, out of the closure. Redoubling the closure, one splits it. Then one escapes it furtively, between two passages through the same book, through the same line, following the same bend… . This departure outside of the identical within the same remains very slight, it weighs nothing, it thinks and weighs the book as such. The return to the book is also the abandoning of the book. (ED 430)

Essentially this passage says something very similar to what religious texts have said on very similar issues: only a god can save us; or the possibility of salvation is contained within the actuality of falleness.

I read deconstruction from a very similar lens I picked up from Heidegger. Derrida and Heidegger are both very interested, it seems, in the phenomena of the encounter (although this encounter is not temporally established as serially ordered). Both want to come to an understanding of what it is to come to an understanding of anything at all, without reinstituting the mistakes of structuralism and foundationalism.

I really don’t understand why humanity is at the point at which certain companies and business practices are labelled “eco-friendly.”

To have “eco-friendly” as a slogan for any sort of business practice is really to have a double-edged sword. From what I can tell, most business that try to implement eco-friendly policies do so back-turned to many other faulty practices that lead to pollution, exploitation, etc. It seems, really, like a slogan that justifies every other business practice a business has, especially if those other practices are more “cost-effective.”

How can saving the environment be different from the sacrament? How can it be different than the working out of one’s salvation and the reception of God’s love? And, on a less religious note, how can it be different than putting prudence over hedonism?

The Cosmos will be airing an episode on climate change in two weeks. I imagine the liberal scientific community (all 97% percent of them) who live in a liberal world (where liberal amounts of carbon gases are pumped into the atmosphere, an atmosphere which, apparently, covers the world that liberals live on) will try to put on a show about the dangers of melting ice caps, rising waters, changing climate, etc., just so that big business will lose a percent or two of profit through a new big government tax that is meant to, really, construct a hell on earth in which all the money that big business has will be tossed into the bottomless pit of “the common good.”

1Cor 7: On Marriage

I’ve been thinking on Paul’s words from 1Cor 7, recently. As a married man, and as a practicing Christian, I’ve come to be horrified by the language he uses.

1Cor 7:
7 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

I suspect that this passage is the cause of much spousal abuse and worse. Other than the fact that Paul has gotten it wrong: that lack of self-control is alleviated by an aggressive undertaking to fulfill one’s unrestrained and pre-reflective desires, Paul is supportive of the proposition that marriage is merely about sex and that it is a woman’s duty to give up her bodily anatomy.

One may cite other passages in order to defend Paul. One may also say that Paul later changed his mind or that he was never really clear on the issue. But, here, I say that the issue becomes a banner—and that whether or not Paul changed his mind, Paul is still wrong in this instance, and it is an injustice to sweep this nonsense under the rug and try to reduce Paul’s words to a greater “metanarrative” or “conceptual scheme.”

This is a point at which many conservative Christians are contradictory. How should one keep one’s passions at bay? Is it by living one’s life in expectation of fulfilling that passion in marriage—as abstinent prophets would have us believe (a program which is proven not to work)? Is it to reduce marriage to such a passion (and really miss out on the perpetual task of crucifying one’s ego so that a greater beauty and quality of experience may arise through the assimilation of another’s experience into one’s own)?

Really, though, I cannot quite understand how anyone could say what Paul has said—or how anyone could support such a thing. At least, in this passage, it is clear that marriage is really a nasty business, with the only sanctity coming from its (supposed) Paul-ordained place to enact a certain hedonism.

Lastly, there shouldn’t be talk of “ownership” (Paul here uses “authority”) in marriage, whether it is to deny or to bestow. Such language has no room in marriage—for marriage is the systematic destruction of ego and power for commitment and sacrifice. And marriage doesn’t form a new person in such a way that one’s human rights are waived or precluded. To the contrary, marriage presupposes such rights—for marriage is always between humans—and is exactly the enactment of such things to their greatest ends in service to greater unity and the power of beauty.