Thursday, September 29, 2011

reason knows of its difficulties when irony fails

If my reason remained untouched in the times of acute despair, it would be no small comfort. Unfortunately, it is not so. In my post of May 27th, I alluded to how cognition can be compromised. That irony had no place in the events of this spring was particularly painful. Irony depends on making a thought, a feeling, a remark, or something else in an object considered from another perspective. It is the mark of a healthy intellect that it can consider its remarks and events from multiple perspectives each with its own tendencies and preferences.



In my case, dysfunction in my cognitive abilities shows itself in a propensity to compulsive, monomaniacal obsession with a point of view. I can't get outside of myself.



When I am in one of these moments of despair, I am not cognizant of any other possible way of regarding my present situation, except as what most forcibly presents itself. In the case, of the despair, it won't go away and I can't shift my point of view to subject the despair to analysis to gain a different and possibly deeper understanding. The psychic pain is acute and no more amenable to analysis than a broken leg.



It sometimes happens that I am aware that my thought processes are aberrant, but more often than not, I am not. With awareness of compromised mental faculties, there is at least the possibility of going for a walk, or calling a friend, or something else that will get me out of myself.




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Monday, September 26, 2011

It's been a while and lots has happened

As the tag line says, it's been a while and a lot has happened since I updated my blog. Some five months ago my mother passed away after a year-long struggle with ovarian cancer and in the same week, while she was on her deathbed, my wife informed me that she was now a lesbian. She told me that she had been chasing this woman at her job for the previous five months. My wife's announcement was completely unexpected. We'd had an active sex life up to the day before her announcement. We had not argued or fought. This came completely out of the blue.



It has been and remains overwhelming to say the least. I have always been prone to depression, but the changes wrought in the last five months make past bouts of depression trivial in comparison. It struck me yesterday that no one has asked me what this has been like for me. Most of the time my moods are placid and even stable, only occasionally punctuated by episodes of despair.



In times of acute psychic anguish, any possibility of escape can sometimes be an overwhelming temptation. The despair suffocates with its oppressiveness and inevitability. It can last a few moments, or it can last hours. Describing this despair as a rampaging monster misleads. The metaphor of a monster implies that the despair has reason and purpose. Monsters are sometimes angry: anger, while not pleasant, can be understood. Or if the monster is the devouring kind, it is hungry. Again, hunger is something that can be understood and even placated sometimes. If something can be understood, its limits and goals can be found. With knowledge of the monster's limits and goals its comings and goings can be predicted, and if predictable, then can be planned for.



The despair comes when it comes. It can be brought on by seemingly trivial events. There are only bad accidents, never good ones.



The despair is a result of an imbalance in my brain. There is certainly reason enough in my life to despair. These moods when they happen seem to be more akin to a sudden shift in chemical states. They have all the "reason" of a physical event, something indifferent and unrespecting of the psychic niceties of self-respect.



I chose the word "despair" because it captures the specific loss of looking toward the future. Hope in its most abstract and general sense implies that there is a place for one's desires and plans in the way of the world. Friends assure me that "it won't always be this way." Eventually, they tell me, I'll have something once more to look forward to.







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Friday, May 27, 2011

Coming soon ...

I've been more than a little busy with non-blogging activities, as if I was good about keeping this up to date.



So, coming soon:



What Alcohol Detoxification taught me about Nietzsche's Perspectivism, Thinking, and Neurosis



and



Nietzsche's Perspectivism and Banality of Evil



That and much, much more coming soon.





Monday, April 25, 2011

Nietzsche's Perspectivism Cont'd

There is another way of looking at Nietzsche's perspectivism. This way can make for seasickness for weak stomachs. Perspectives, which should be understood as ways of thinking and habits of thoughts often found together, can themselves be objects of other perspectives. Part of Christianity, for example, is a certain kink in viewing of paganism. That is why the views of the pagans hold such fascination for a certain type of atheist and about-to-be atheist.



If perspectivism means both looking-at and being-looked-at. There is both an active element but always a passive one as well.



A concept of power is implied. The power shows itself by denying certain perspectives. Perspectives have their own internal logic, an aesthetic in its preferred arrangements of what is seen. This means nothing is really destroyed and obliterated. For example, when Christianity replacing paganism, it became ever less important to record what the pagans may have thought of Christianity, unless it was to provide lessons on refuting those errors. Christianity for all of its hatred of paganism in its refutations still preserved a great deal. Even in our most heinous totalitarianisms there are still secret archives.



Perspectives are always limited. This limitation comes from the metaphor of sight upon which the concept is based. To speak within this metaphor: we cannot see the back of our own heads. Every way of thinking elides objections with delinquency. For example, the Transportation Safety Administration considers that assertion of one's freedom of speech indicates subversive activity.



Habitual ways of thinking and seeing are not refuted. Instead their limitations are found. The confrontation of impossible facts throws those limits in sharp relief. Chalk dust blown over a trail of water drops. The experience of those limits? Insanity? Here there be dragons? What lies beyond? There's only one way to find out.




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Monday, March 28, 2011

A Brief Diversion: A Comment on Nietzsche's Perspectivism

Nietzsche's perspectivism. Almost any contemporary account of Nietzsche's philosophy begins with an overview of his claim that all knowing is contingent and completely rooted in context and history. What does that mean? In a nutshell? It depends...



From an all-knowing God's perspective, any claim with pretensions to eternal validity that a human being might make would tempt the comment, "Of course, you would say that, with your history, and your experiences and the history of the universe behind you pushing and pulling you to say just that. History and causality are sufficient to explain just why you would say that."



Ok, so strict determinism. Big whoop. Consider this: if the conditions, the soil as it were, from which this view of something arises were constituted a little differently, wouldn't the perspective, one's view and belief on the matter at hand be different? All perspectives are equally contingent, equally haphazard. This includes Nietzsche's perspectivism as well.



Naively considered, Nietzsche's perspectivism is self-refuting. But let's look at perspectivism a little more closely. An analogy from algebra and arithmetic. In order to solve an equation it is necessary to manipulate the form of the equation in order to put it into a form whose solution is relatively straightforward. Simplification is achieved by adding, subtracting, and multiplying quantities in a way that respects the equal sign of the equation. Analogously, the concepts of perspective and perspectivism are an equation to be simplified so that solutions and observations are straightforward.



Nietzsche's perspectivism looks like it makes an assertion with identifiable content and truth about ideas and human cognitive processes. If, however, the content is an assertion of a lack and of limitations of perspectives, namely that there are other perspectives which are mutually irreconcilable, It asserts a negative. It tells us something about human cognitive processes in the same way that denials of the existence of unicorns tells us something about the taxonomy of animals. If, however, there are bureaucracies and institutions that have made the existence of unicorns central to their continued existence, then denials of unicorns become a direct challenge to the existence of those unicorn-centric bureaucracies and institutions by calling attention
to the limits of unicorn-centrism.



At this point perspectivism becomes indistinguishable from popular conceptions of relativism and what Nietzsche called nihilism. All perspectives become equally valid. There are no standards by which ideas, perspectives, and views may be ranked and organized. This is true in that value is not a quality of things. I would like to point out that as disconcerting as this may be, that there is a way out. Even if all views and ideas have the same relative value considered without regard to persons holding those views and ideas: namely zero, these ideas and perspectives do not all have the same value for me. Preference for one perspective over another is rooted in flesh and blood. This includes truth as well.



Perspectivism challenges traditional metaphysical claims to transcendent and knowledge of eternity and the like. An unlikely philosopher and later contemporary provides a surprisingly useful view on this whole matter: the early Wittgenstein, specifically his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Consider the following:

That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of my world.

. It's not the quote that I remembered. Oh well. What I remembered is the following:

Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.



See what I wrote here. Just do a search in the google search box to the left of the phrase "last moment of innocence". "The last moment of innocence" is a specific instance of a the more general insight that the boundaries of perspectives are only reluctantly acknowledged in the vast majority of cases.









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Sunday, March 27, 2011

first impressions

First observation: There is God and then there are His representatives, publicists, and spokespeople. Considered thusly, God is not a political actor. God does not appear in politics. Only his representatives and publicists can engage in politics. A philosophical-skeptical evaluation of the content of their opinions, values, positions, and what not is beside the point. The question is rather one of whether the fact of the engagement of God's Publicists is consistent and supportive of American political life.



Diversity of confession and denomination characterize US religious history. In most of US history God's would-be publicists who found themselves thoroughly without reserve convinced of their special closeness of to God or Jesus would be perceived immediately as a threat by all the other denominations. To paraphrase one summation of Federalist Number 10: the cure for the domination of religion over public life is to have more religion. More sects result in more opportunities for avoiding the domination of any one sect. The cure for faction is more faction, religious or otherwise.



The absence of religion in American Public Life much decried by religious types is not the result of a secular conspiracy. In an time when members of a church or synagogue took the differences between the various denominations far more seriously than is hardly conceivable today, religion couldn't be established by political bodies, nor could it be legislated against by political bodies. Considered in this way, the Establishment & Free Exercise Clauses largely amount to the same thing. If one denomination were given the imprimatur of Congress, then it would be an attack on the Free Exercise of religious practice by all those other denominations that were excluded.



In this context, the homogenization of American religious life that Evangelical Christianity represents threatens freedom and liberty. American Evangelical Christianity is primarily a political ideology not unlike Bolshevism in so far as its primary concern is effecting change in this life, in this world.






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Saturday, March 26, 2011

An apology of sorts for an unexpected absence

Sorry for taking so long to get back to this. It's not that I've changed my mind. There have been some developments in my life. Changes to schedules, changes, and some more changes. Probably the most important is that my mother is terminally ill with ovarian cancer. She will most likely pass away in the next few weeks. That has been alternately depressing and invigorating. Depressing is clear enough, nobody is really ever ready for their mommy to pass away. The child within is never reconciled to loss and separation. But invigorating? I'm 50, really almost 51, and I'm hardly ready to grow fat, sedentary, and old.



I've found myself reading up on Nietzsche (again). Whenever this happens, it inevitably leads to a surge in intellectual and spiritual activity. It hardly matters whether this return to Nietzsche is inadvertent or by choice. Or maybe I'm skeptical that I have that much good sense: do I need to be repeatedly convinced because of a forgetfulness? It strikes me as indecent to like someone just because we agree in some matter. Maybe it's self-indecent to be in agreement with myself? Have my self-destructive tendencies become so sublimated that ego is an affront to itself in need of shattering? Fragmentation seems like it would be possible to find the pieces in shapes that fit back together. Is ego Humpty Dumpty? Is my ego "mine" because nobody else will lay claim to it?




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