Modest Proposals

"I will teach you differences."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

I have been trying to say this in more ambiguous terms for a few months now, but Derrida says it much clearer in one of his books on the sign. His point here is basically that scientific literature, though it portrays itself as an objective discipline separate from metaphysical and theological tendencies, actually enacts such movements in its language (i.e., science is ethnocentric).

Note on terms: The epoch of the logos is the history of Western thought, which has articulated writing as secondary to speech in terms of constituting meaning. Whereas, for instance, if one says something to oneself, one cannot be uncertain of one’s meaning, if one picks up a book, one has a lot of work to do—and one can never know for certain an author’s intention. Speech (especially internal speech, talking to oneself) has, therefore, been thought as a quintessential “giver” or “maker” of meaning, and writing has been thought to merely represent speech, whereas speech represents, full, meaning. So writing becomes a “mediation of mediation,” a mediation of speech which is a mediation of meaning. A sign is something that stands in for something else in its absence, according to this history. A sign is composed of a signifier and a signified. A signifier is the thing that represents (for example, the word “tree” represents a tree and therefore is a signifier of tree), whereas the signified is the thing that is represented (the word “tree” signifies a tree, which is the signified). Science simply perpetuates this idea of the sign to its most extreme conclusion—and is a technique deriving from a metaphysical distinction.


"The epoch of the logos thus debases writing considered as mediation of mediation and as a fall into the exteriority of meaning. To this epoch belongs the difference between signified and signifier….And this distinction is generally accepted as self-evident by the most careful linguists and semiologists, even by those who believe that the scientificity of their work begins where metaphysics ends."
—Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, 12-13

People that always talk about how their interpretation of something comes from “putting it in context” are always so smug and it makes me want to say everything and nothing at all.

maybe there’s a difference between a fact—a linguistic object from an interpretative community—and an event—something that happened in the past.

Language stores up insights for us, but saves us the trouble of actively bringing them into being; it is our ethical responsibility to quicken them with the constitutive activity of our own minds.

—Henry Staten, Wittgenstein and Derrida, 32.

I am curious as to whether peace can be negotiated in the Middle East without the indigenous populations voting on their own borders. I’ve been reading a book on Syria, and plan to finish it this weekend, and I am astonished at how much sectarian strife has come about through the definition of national borders based on Western interests (especially that of French—for Syria, for instance). It seems that if this is not the sole cause, then it is a central cause of the ambiguity that has occurred in the 20th century between lines of ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation (especially, again, in the Middle East), and the identification of the three with locality.
A more recent example, one that is taking place right now, is the pressure the US is putting on the Kurds to stay within Iraqi borders, whereas the Kurds are much more interested in being their own entity (and it seems as if peace is a much greater prospect for this option). From what I can tell, at least, it is the largest ethnicity to not have a national affiliation. 

"No matter where the name "Khorasan" came from, its easy to see why it could be a positive for U.S. officials to use it. For one thing, by avoiding using the name al-Qaeda, the U.S. doesn’t remind the world that after more than a decade of the "War on Terror," al-Qaeda is still an operational force. It also allows the U.S. to avoid mention of strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda group that enjoys a large amount of support in Syria and opposes both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Finally, there’s the simple fact that Khorasan is a new and evocative name. Frankly, it’s something for the U.S. public to latch onto.”

(Source: Washington Post)

[Defense Department does not believe that ISIS has] the capability right now to conduct a major attack on the U.S. homeland.

— Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, last month

A breakdown of the missile strikes today in Syria:

What happened: The Pentagon says U.S. forces launched 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles from warships in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf. Maybe 20 Islamic militants were killed. The Assad regime was warned of the attack, hours before it happened. The US has spoken in the past on Syria’s formidable aerial defense, a defense latent today—perhaps because the United States did not attack any major contemporary ISIS strongholds in Syria, but mainly empty buildings.

What was the justification? No congressional vote, no UN resolution. It was a unilateral act of the Obama administration.

What was the reason? “First it was to protect U.S. personnel inside Iraq. Then it was humanitarian. And now it’s an imminent threat of a new group that it was only Thursday that was being talked about. Our intelligence agencies have been saying that there is an imminent threat to the United States, so this is yet another justification.” Yes, the more recent specter of imminent threat has been debunked by the Obama administration itself:
"White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged during a Tuesday briefing that "the United States is not aware of any active plotting that is underway to attack the homeland" — a statement that echoes those made by several agencies in recent weeks."

Well, isn’t it sad, Amy, that the day that the world should be coming together to say, “How do we address the climate chaos that can really destroy our entire planet?” instead, the eyes will now be on the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. And let’s remember that the climate crisis, the U.S. is so responsible for, so let’s think about the timing of it. Also thinking about the timing is that the U.S. and the Obama administration is doing a George Bush. It’s saying, “Now, we are coming together to say there’s a fait accompli,” and that’s the bombing, “and you’re either with us or against us.” Look at the coalition it brought together, among the most repressive governments in the Middle East—Bahrain, that’s been repressing its nonviolent, democratic uprising; the Saudis, who provide the financing and the recruits for so many of the extremists. This is the diplomatic success of John Kerry. Instead of coming to the U.N. to say that we have the world coming together to stop the recruiting and the financing and the buying of the oil that ISIS has, we have the accomplishment of having repressive Arab regimes joining us in bombing another Arab state.

—Medea Benjamin, making brilliant connections between the US’s moves in the Middle East and political issues surrounding climate change. See full transcript here:

I’m not sure whether this “standing up to” ISIS is a “standing for” human rights and democracy (since America continuously has a bad record for human rights and international law violations).

Or whether this non-war/war with ISIS is an act of historical revisionism: whereby “erasing” ISIS will erase the political alliances, funding, bombings, and general power moves of the United States in the Middle East that has created the conditions and provided the impetus for a group like ISIS. Whether this non-war/war will, if it succeeds, guarantee, at least in the United States’s mythology, that history will be written by the powerful, by the victors, that the instances in which the United States has breached its very principles (democracy, liberty, etc.) will be interpreted as enactments of these principles.

In Aristotle, there is but one theologian, God. And theology is the manner by which God possesses himself. In the Middle Ages, grace opens to all men the theology that God alone possessed in Aristotle.

—Levinas, God, Death, and Time, p. 137 (via spiritandteeth)

(via theoretical-and-philosophical)