15-04-10

(..) einiges nicht in Ordnung

"Er hat sich augenblicklich zu der Erkenntnis durchgerungen, dass es in der Geschichte der Menschheit kein freiwilliges Zurück gibt. Aber das Erschwerende ist, dass wir ja auch kein brauchbares Vorwärts haben. Gestatten Sie mir, es als eine merkwürdige Lage zu bezeichnen, wenn es weder vorwärts noch zurück geht und der gegenwärtige Augenblick auch als unerträglich empfunden wird." R. Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, RoRoRo, 1978, p. 272.

(amateuristic English translation below)


It's definitely a bummer to think you're at least somewhat original - and then reread something you read so long ago you couldn't precisely remember why it retained the impression of greatness ... to find that much of what you thought was original wasn't just anticipated but anticipated by something you can't - honestly - claim not having known!

Anyway, here are the twin monsters of 'The Meaning of Life': cultural pessimism and utopianism, absolutism and essentialism - looking back to the more innocent times, of the past, or longing for the times to come where we will be redeemed, finally, and saved from all this mess which is the current.

The monsters are twins and therefore share the same genetic code - a denial of the present as the most loathworthy situation in which we possibly could be. That there's a single nature to these two ways of looking at life is clear from the random mixture in which those melancholic for more innocent, traditional, times can blend in the idea of original sin - or from the likewise logically odd idea of Utopians that what we really need to do is 'make' a future (ipso facto rapido presto) that is, essentially, quite the same as what we once naturally 'were' (or, at least, 'would have been' if there wasn't the interference of really bad (BAD!) people that ripped us away from 'nature').

It essentially makes no difference which side of this equation you choose: it will be a matter of neurotic control freaks policing the 'peoples' in line with the psychotic ideas of somebody that coincidentally created a die-hard following of some orthodox 'pure' gatekeepers before being killed (mostly by somebody whose nose they really got up with some moralizing opinion or other of what should or should not be done, or else: eternal damnation or some of the many variants thereof). The result is a 'politics as hysterics' which is unavoidably giving politics as such a pejorative connotation.

Politics as hysterics; the hysterics of wanting to put a stop to certain unacceptabilities (and at once, and conclusively) or the hysterics of blowing each individual unfairness up to a gigantic balloon that needs to be dealt with (once and for all, all over again). Which is why, by the way, it is so easy for people to switch opinions from left to right  and back and even hold any combination of left- and right-wing ideas at once: there is a common genetic code and a common behaviour of hysterical "being-right"-ness, that makes any of a number of coincidentally extreme point of view continuous in an eye of an engaged and committed beholder.

Maybe politics IS hysterics and maybe we should indeed get rid of politics; not to get into a more pure unpolitical state and not to go towards the blissfully apolitical state, in which people are 'checked' by other people to do 'the right thing' but to get to this state of administering the plenty that is the result of human creativity in bureaucratic but uncontroversial ways that give everybody at least what they need as subsistence, what they need to do their unmanaged & non-coerced 'whatever-it-may-be' bit that'll keep the wheel of human creativity rolling to ... wherever it damned well wants to roll (or better: rolls).

Not denying the present but enjoying that is is better than what came before - & that it can only go uphill from here. Uphill not because we are all pushing the rock with all of the effort we can muster in the 'right' direction but because some inventive lady is giving it an impetus in that direction because ... why the hell would she kick it down? What would be the purpose, over time, of people to keep that bloody rock down in a valley of miseries when with less effort it can be hoisted to new heights?

What do I have to offer?

Fuck melancholic anarchists. Welcome to decadence!

Optimism is all I have to offer. Not even clarity because a clear idea is not an idea I would want to express :-)


"He immediately came to the insight that - in human history - there is no voluntary 'Back!'. But the aggravating circumstance is that there is also no useful 'Forward!'. Allow me to put it to you that it is a most curious situation, in which there is neither a forward nor a back & in which the current moment is considered as equally unbearable."


Whilst writing this I was listening (again?) to Sonny Rollins, Soneymoon (it cheers me right up - what can I say!).

17:05 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: musil, decadence, tones, optimism, dynamics |  Facebook |

26-02-10

Purgatorio - Marco Lombardo



From a guest writer and friend who will go by the name of Stena.


 "70 Se così fosse, in voi fora distrutto
71 libero arbitrio, e non fora giustizia
72 per ben letizia, e per male aver lutto.

73 Lo cielo i vostri movimenti inizia;
74 non dico tutti, ma, posto ch'i' 'l dica,
75 lume v'è dato a bene e a malizia,

76 e libero voler; che, se fatica
77 ne le prime battaglie col ciel dura,
78 poi vince tutto, se ben si notrica.

79 A maggior forza e a miglior natura
80 liberi soggiacete; e quella cria"

Dante, Purgatorio, XVI, lines 70-81.

(professional English translation from http://www.divinecomedy.org below)


Dante is asking Marco Lombardo an interesting question: why is there evil on earth, and which is the reason for this evil which seems to be predominant in life and determining my days. 

He wants to understand and explain this to everyone.

He’s not just curious, but he feels a sense of responsibility towards everyone to understand this and to affirm there is an ultimate possibility of good.

A few lines before Dante puts the question around freedom by saying "For one in the heavens, and here below one puts it"….somebody thinks evil on earth is caused by nature, somebody else thinks it’s caused by man.

Why it’s about freedom?....because if it’s the former, than what would be freedom all about? If it’s all about me having a natural blueprint, what it would be my responsibility? Would there be any room for my liberty to play?

Then the answer comes from Marco Lombardo (the quote).

At the very beginning it’s our nature blueprint…but at the very end "light has been given you"…we have been given inside us the Reason, capable to distinguish good and evil and the freedom to choose….the light of reason will be able to win over our natural blueprints.

With only one, fantastic condition: "if well 'tis nurtured"….which is the greatest definition of education I ever heard….our reason, our willingness has to be nurtured well.

This is a huge question around education of ourselves and of our children. Our reason and freedom won’t get mature without them being nurtured, accompanied, protected, and corrected.

"Though free, ye subject are"…is this a contradiction, being free and subdued? It’s an idea of freedom which is almost gone nowadays….an idea where freedom is recognizing whowhat I depend upon…man is like this deep inside: the shape of freedom is the way we adhere to truth, to what one depends upon….a relation. The opposite of having the chance to do what we want to do and think what we want to think, or at least not limited to this.

So, the answer…..if the world is in its current condition, the reason of it has to be searched for inside us….if there is evil in the world, we should ask ourselves why, how we "let it be" and how we contribute to that, as our freedom we have as man is the first cause of evil’s success.

If freedom is not educated (nurtured), then willingness will get confused….


"70 Free will, nor any justice would there be
71 In having joy for good, or grief for evil.
72 The heavens your movements do initiate,

73 I say not all; but granting that I say it,
74 Light has been given you for good and evil,
75 And free volition; which, if some fatigue

76 In the first battles with the heavens it suffers,
77 Afterwards conquers all, if well 'tis nurtured.
78 To greater force and to a better nature,

79 Though free, ye subject are, and that creates
80 The mind in you the heavens have not in charge."


 Whilst writing this Stena was listening to "La revancha del tango", The Gotan Project.  

17:55 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (3) | Tags: learning, dante, dynamics, tones, mind-mind dualism |  Facebook |

23-12-09

Book III: Of Morals - Conclusion

"The interest, on which justice is founded, is the greatest imaginable, and extends to all times and places. It cannot be possibly serv'd by any other invention. It is obvious, and discovers itself on the very first formation of society." David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Penguin Classics, 1985, p. 669.


Call it the Roddenberry-principle: you can't imagine, can't conceive of, a society that is composed of intelligent individuals in which there's not a basic notion of justice, & fairness. So much so that even the biggest bands of thieves have some code of law internal to them and that any perturbation of the current laws is invariably justified - with recourse to some 'higher' principle of justice.

That much I consider obvious although it is certainly not obvious that the justice that prevails in any such a conception is just or the fairness so conceived, even remotely, fair. The latter will be my concession to those that like to call their adversaries naïve but it will be a concession made only for the purposes of the argument induced by a reading of Hume which is more particularly my reading. A reading that considers that quite a lot is entailed by Hume's treatment of morals & that consequently lots of the merely contingent human inventions are, in fact, not only just but, also, unavoidable long term consequences of any society where civility is sustained through sufficiently long periods of time (i.e. where no breakdowns are experienced on account of some majority perception that whatever a game life is it basically is a negative sum one in which at least some others need to outright loose before anybody at all can win).

To illustrate my premise:

  • do not say: "despite everything mankind has achieved it still degrades into beastly behaviour";
  • but say: "despite all of those things we do not have yet, doing what is good is still the most common motivator of human action".

When resources are scarce life is a struggle for life and hence a non-zero sum game where this non-zero sum is negative (i.e. necessity knows no law). The denial of this is the essence of the modern political spinning of win-win scenarios that, necessarily, can only be win-win by abstracting the loss to others as irrelevant or unavoidable - & hence the marriage in modern politics between 'realism', 'common sense' & 'win-win' in an attempt to subvert an intuitive longing for cosiness into a blatant disregard for those that loose out 'because they didn't try hard enough'.

But insofar as human invention succeeds in alleviating this struggle for life (to retain only the form of the struggle & the form of the game, where the essence still is non-zero negative sum but where the sum is not expressed in life or death) we'll see, as Hume observes, that we all can gain (at least life-wise) if we focus our energy on the increase of human inventivity and, hence, if we cooperate. So much so that a 'weak' society will, in circumstances of non-scarcity, will tend to win over time from what is a belligerent society (more often than not by inducing internal revolts, within this latter society). Let me say in passing that one of the crucial human inventions that's often forgotten is the invention of reducing the human population by other means than by war, famine or other destruction (and that any cosy politics that avoids 'engineering' the population growth cannot but be unjust and unfair - to be explicit: people without the means for children should first get the means and only then the children - most opting after even the most basic education that they don't want to have children if it means not having a life of their own).

Coming back to the premise illustrated by the above two bullets - the reason why we still have so much problems of injustice and unfairness is because we did not have a sufficient amount of time under which to develop justice and fairness and/or (but for the moment the following is still the most important) because there still is too much scarcity and hence too much struggle by humans to live for us to be able to take the moral high ground. That being as it may it is self-evident that once what will emerge once both conditions are being met with progressively more perfection: the justice of the type argued by Rawls to be fair (but without the artificial reasoning to establish it as it will establish itself as reasonable once scarcity has been suppressed and all the human energy will be dedicated to the struggle for being inventive where individuals will continue to loose but where the whole cannot but win).

More than this: all of this justice as fairness is entailed by the very first justice in the Humean sense. The progress is not one of content (because there is only form to it, and no content, see elsewhere) but one of increasing applicability both class-wise (in a first movement) and geography-wise (in a second movement). This progress can't but be accompanied by an at least perceived loss of some individuals (that are used to winning at the expense of others in a condition of scarcity). The latter is what war, essentially, is made of. The solution does not lie solely - and not even primarily - in coercing the individuals that stand to loose into their loss. Doing this is as stupid (in most - but not all! - contexts) as coercing an unjust and unfair society to adopt what is the established practice of jusice and fairness in more evolved societies (Iraq and Afghanistan spring to mind). Maybe I'll be able to draw out this comparison another time (maybe piggybacking on something in Rawls' Law of Peoples) but suffice to say here that in line with the conception of justice outlined the coercion is in the realm of non-zero negative sum games whilst the patience for evolution counting on the just and the fair being contagious principles is the one that will prove most effective (and just these exceptions where war certainly is justified as an ultimate threat: a lack of education - specifically for women - and a clear breakdown into a less just and more unfair society because of an onset of new scarcity - whatever and whomever is finally the cause of such an onset, the justification of war is independent of who is guilty in bringing about the scarcity - see WWII).

In the end maybe this is the thought: we don't need to engineer people nor society but we do need to engineer away any scarcity of life-threatening tangible goods and if necessary (contra Roddenberry this time) by decreasing the competition for these goods on the demand side (whenever we feel a restriction on the supply side).

(And now I will trun back to language and intention!, for those that were worrying)


Whilst writing this I was listening to Sonny Rollins, soneymoon, Get Back 2007.

15:48 Gepost door Guido Nius in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: hume, optimism, imagination, dynamics, universals |  Facebook |