Damn…

September 22, 2009

Haven’t updated this in awhile.  My week off from doing two full-time summer sessions coupled with the iphone I got for my birthday has made me antsy to be “get connected” again. So I fired up twitter, facebook, and my blog again to kickstart my downward spiral into the internet.

I also haven’t been able to finish Rorty’s  PMN since my attempt at the beginning of summer session. So I’m going to try again. Updated the books section for the most part.

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My political childhood

February 19, 2008

It’s 2008 and I”m 23 years old. This means when I was becoming “politically aware” – say around 16 or 17 – the seemingly big issue at the time was Kenneth Star trying to impeach the President of the United States for lying about a blowjob. This was not the best time to get interested in politics. So, I didn’t. My interest went elsewhere.

The next large political event was the 2000 election. I wasn’t of voting age yet so my interest, again, was largely absent. I was raised a liberal democrat (despite the fact that my personal political philosophy had barely begun to form) so my interest was in seeing Gore win against Bush. Neither seemed interesting, one seemed dumb and the other could stop saying the word “lockbox”. Then.. after the election: allegations of voter fraud, ambiguity, a supreme court judge determining the outcome instead of the simple matter of counting. The first presidential election I really paid any attention beacme a massive question mark. Simply put, this was a bad sign.

For the next several months the typical political punditry for cutting down the president for his behavior felt normal. It was commonplace. Then 9/11 happened. It was one of those “I remember exactly where I was when…” moments. For previous generations that moment was when JFK,  RFK, or MLK or John Lennon was assassinated.  Surprisingly, I didn’t lose faith in the effectiveness of my government, at least not initially. We bounced back in such an unimaginably noble form that I felt somewhat proud that this did not defeat us. We had the world’s sympathy, we weren’t accusing all our enemies or blaming ourselves for negligence.

This lasted only a few months.

Conspiracy theorists – ‘troofers’ – exploded onto the internet. Xenophobia and anti-islamic rhetoric blanketed our political landscape. For the next year the talk of the town was Afghanistan and the Taliban. We became grossly misinformed of the culture of our “enemies” through the medium of blatantly partisan yet non-transparent newsmedia outlets. Even who are enemies were was clouded. Some said Afghanistan and therefore the Taliban but most of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian. Then somehow Iraq was thrown into the mix. I had a president who barely had a grasp on the English language and who had absolutely no grasp on logic, justification, or critical thinking in general. And the political will at the time was caked in fear and vengeance. In 2003 the Iraq War started. Of the numerous justifications for the war very little made sense in a post-9/11 atmosphere.

Even though I had a barely even experienced a non-post-9/11 atmosphere the justifications for “liberating” Iraq made no sense to me. Why would a conservative President who only a few years previous objected to using the US as a “nation builder” put forth the most psychotically progressive idea I’ve ever heard? He wanted to invade a middle-eastern country, kill the dictator, destroy its government, seize its weapons of mass destruction, and create a new government. And the naivete of our officials and political pundits was staggering. To them this was all possible in a few months to a few years all with the “support” of the Iraqi citizens. Bill Clinton said the war would last “maybe three days.” Rumsfeld said a few months. And every so many months for the next several years you had someone else saying “a few months.” Things like “Homeland security” and fascistic domestic policy like the patriot act were created. Most unfortunately, the administration’s behavior toward domestic and international treaties and policy was deplorable. We went against the United Nations, broke the Geneva and Hague conventions, violated our own constitution and war powers act, and had a general disregard that stood in our way of seeking vengence while we built up security.

It was because of this we lost the sympathy of the world.

For political infants such as myself there was  little in the proceeding months to assuage the apathy and lack of hope I felt towards my politically charged society as a whole. Nonetheless, I strived to be politically informed. This involved me reading over-reported news of soldier death tolls and under-reported news of civilian death tolls; false reports of found WMDs and confirming reports that one of the biggest justifications for the invasion was false; the internal failure of my government to effectively respond to a domestic natural disaster. Watching society lose its trust in the efficacy of science – creationism/ID versus evolution actually became a political issue in the realm of education. Not only this but Al Gore also popularized the theory of climate change. Science had a wealth of evidence generally confirming the threat of our world’s future and “denial” became a large response – especially by those who hold the power to do anything about it.  

When pictures from Abu Grahib came out I felt what few Americans should ever feel: shame. There were previous events where shame was a reasonable response but it wasn’t until Abu Grahib that I felt the type of shame I could only have imagined Germans felt after the reality of the Holocaust became apparent.  A cocoon of disillusionment and apathy had me wrapped almost entirely. Simply ignoring politics for the sake of personal sanity was unfortunately not, in my mind, an appropriate option. So I read on.

Things began to die down, more or less. Saddam was eventually captured but war casualties continued to rage on. People barely talked about Osama anymore other than trying to remind us in political debates about Iraq that he was and still should be the initial target.  Over-politicized moral issues like gay marriage rights and stem cell research ebbed back and forth in the political consciousness. However, under-politicized issues such as net-neutrality were grossly under-reported. The immigration ‘debate’ seemed symptomatic of residual xenophobia but regardless of political ideology the response was universal: strengthen the boarders and figure out something to do with the illegals already here – some said prison, deportation, or the most humane response of a path to citizenship.

By now it was 2007 and presidential campaigning started early. Since Bush was re-elected in 2004 the promise of change was a given. In the eyes of the public, however, republican neoconservatism had been a collossal failure.

What I wanted to see and needed to see was the correct response to everything that has happened in my political childhood since 9/11.

I needed to be inspired rather then become more apathetic. I needed government transparency rather than governmental secrecy and executive privilege. I needed to see the integrity and freedom of the internet secured.  I needed to see immigration solved without a psuedo-xenophobic attitude. I needed to see us get out of Iraq in a realistic manner rather than an idealistic manner. I needed to see a response to foriegn relations that was non-opposition, diplomatic, and that held negotiation and compromise over dogma and militarial might. I needed to see universal healthcare in a way that reflected American ideals of choice and individualism. I needed to see politics become unifying in a very fundamental way; in a way that the two opposing sides of our nation came to one based on mutually agreed premises. I needed to see not old politics promising change but new politics demanding it.

I see this and only this in the philosophy Barack Obama.

Note to self:

August 3, 2007

Who are the philosophers of revolt? That is to say, who philosophized the meaning and justifications of revolutions and rebellion?

Albert Camus: metaphysical and social rebellion – the individual as a part of and separate from the community. WWII French Resistance

John Locke: the political necessity for rebellion: the right of rebellion – ultimately a human right rather than strictly (or “merely”) a civil one –

Thomas Paine: the justifications and defenses of rebellion/revolution (revolution as “mass rebellion”) American and French Revolutions – a philosopher?

Marx: was he really a philosopher of rebellion/revolution or did he simply predict that worker animosity would enflate? He seems more sociological rather than philosophical in this sense: he’s more on causes than reasons/general justifications/meanings of rebellions. ?

Guevara: Philosopher or tactician

Guy Debord and the Situationists? ’68 resistance

Thoreau is a given, but again, is he more of a tactician in this regard?

Are philosophies of rebellion as simplistic as self-ostracizing for the sake of justice or some higher morality?

A philosophy of rebellion must say more than that rebellion is action against an injustice. ?

Can it be said that the ‘Founding Fathers’ described a potent freedom-centered philosophy of rebellion or was it really more of a hodge-podge of philosophical baby steps? The numerous quotes supporting rebellion made by Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, and then Lincoln and then FDR does not make for a philosophical treatise of American rebellion.

Or is a “philosophy of revolt” supposed to be either highly specific or incredibly vague much in the same way philosophies of “government” are either which type of government is a ‘truer’ or more just government .. or are really a philosophy trying to flesh out the meaning of the word “government”. To make the analogy clearer: you don’t need an entire “philosophy” of revolt, once you understand what a revolt empirically is then you can figure out which revolt is the best revolt.

Hm, no I disagree there. Camus fleshed out the possibility of a much larger and deeper discussion of the philosophical meaning of revolt and rebellion: in the general sense. He gave specifics – such as the revolt against political violence (death row) but statements like “Man’s solidarity is founded on rebellion.” give a much more general picture of what revolt itself means regardless of what is being revolted against or who or how. It even surpasses the particular form of “why” one must revolt.

And Badiou! What of philosophical revolutions like from Pre-socratics to Socratese, to Aristoleanism, to Descartes laboring of modern philosophy up to the schism between analytic and continental philosophy and to what may be now called the Malgre Tout collective

Interests and addictions

June 29, 2007

My interests have become far far too broad over the last two years. Two years ago I was particularly interested in, what I now consider to be, the novelty of where art and mathematics converge. From here my interests expanded into processing.org, MacKenzie Wark’s books, and ludology. This also spilled into a attraction towards minimalism and simplicity. Then these interests spilled into simple (intentional) living movements, environmentalism (in a minor sense), necessity, and Sober and Foster’s likelihood theory of curve-fitting in the philosophy of science. As a result of being interested in simple living movements I questioned the effectiveness of social movements as a whole. What makes them effective or worthy of success? What role do think tanks and intellectuals play? Would one have a better chance of effecting social change – of fulfilling the goals of numerous social movements – as an intellectual, think tank researcher, or your run of the mill voter? None of them seemed effective.

Intellectuals have marginalized themselves as merely those who create ideas rather than utilize ideas to provoke action. Think tanks for the most part apparently do not significantly effect policy change. And the run of the mill voter? Well less than 50% of those who can, don’t. And those who do? Too young. Too fundamentalist. The rest are smart, yet apathetic. Even though I live in California – with the greatest number of electoral (you know, the ones that count) – the power of my vote is still a fraction with the population. It becomes more and more insignificant. Now I’ve become interested in participatory democracy. A movement started in the 60s arguably by C. Wright Mills and continues to exist today even though the movement has essentially failed. Movements typically only get one chance.

So, then, my interests are stretched too thin. For suppose that I wanted to study one of these avenues: simplicity, minimalism, social movements/change, intellectualism, think tanks, participatory democracy, art+mathematics, necessity, the evolution of abstract concepts, and so forth. And, philosophy, well is all those things combined and more. But there should – and I suppose by “should” I mean “I want there to be” – either one thing which is interesting enough and able enough to encompass all those interests in such a way that I may be able to devote my time and energy into fulfilling.

This massive and infinite and exponential expansion of interest seems indicative of an addictive personality trait. There are overtones of impulsiveness, experimentation, instant gratification, and so forth. But this addiction would be towards mere ideas, thus leaving out the possibility of withdrawal – for the most part. I suppose there are times where I think I “need” a new book in order to perpetuate this psychological addiction to socio-philosophical ideas. Thinking can get an amateur mind only so far.

So what then? Should I devote time to epistemology? The social sciences? Or to reasoning my way out of this seeming psychological addiction? I suppose I would first have to resolve internal psychological issues before I attempt to resolve external social ones. I feel I’ve already resolved the internal rational aspect of being committed. Motivation seems to be the next step. I’ve already reasoned that the “end” is a necessity (I am referring to commitment) and my means needn’t be rational – it merely needs to be effective (motivation).

I have recently read a book on “philosophical counseling” by Peter Raabe. It was illuminating but not in an entirely good way. The prospect and intentions of philosophical counseling are good. People need to be able to think for themselves and need to be able to handle (if not answer) questions about identity and morality. But ultimately the problems of academic philosophy are the problems of philosophical counseling. How could a counselor give advice one how and what an individual is truly entitled to “know” and “believe” if the philosophical jury is still out on what even counts as knowledge and belief to begin with? If anything, philosophical counseling is psychological counseling in a pseudo-philosophical framework. It is not truly philosophical. If it’s effective it’s a coincidental bonus.

I had thought that maybe my predicament of an addiction towards ideas would be suitable to philosophical counseling. But it isn’t goal-oriented (says Achenbach), end-oriented or problem-oriented (says Raabe). And what Raabe says it is oriented towards doesn’t seem conducive to my needs. I already know how to think objectively, rationally, and transcendently. That is another great problem of philosophical counseling and another great advantage of psychological counseling. Philosophical counseling likely cannot help other philosophers. There is a very subtle condescending tone throughout the literature. The clients are always dimwitted non-philosophers. But psychological counseling can help other psychologists. And philosophers. But doesn’t the very idea that someone could be “addicted to ideas” sound like something only a philosophical counselor would be able to help resolve? They’d at least be able to handle the ideas aspect. Maybe there is some manifest contradiction in my worldview or among my plethora of interests. The psychologist, then, would be able to handle the irrational aspect of addiction.

Well, that prospect seems worthy in its own right. However, supposing that it is effective I am still left with a cornucopia of interests. How to combine them? Or how to eliminate the less relevant or important ones. The problem is more you eliminate the less important ones the broader your interests become. For instance, suppose I eliminate minimalism and simplicity as not as important as studying, say, social movements. But I could spend my whole life studying a specific tactic one social movement made in one part of history and make the most minor dent into the literature. Whereas simplicity seems less important but I may have a better chance of denting the literature with insight.

Commitment

June 25, 2007

A: Why should I be committed to something?
B: What do  you mean?
A: Suppose I had a goal to lose weight. Why should I be committed to losing weight?
B: Why do you have that goal to begin with?
A: I may have numerous reasons. Because at my current weight I am putting my health, and thus my life, at risk. It would be better to lose weight. I suppose that is a moral reason. If I lost weight I would potentially be able to buy less food, cheaper pants (because there is less material), and if by my losing of the weight I became more fit I would be more comfortable traveling by foot or bike and thus reducing my transportation costs. I suppose that is an economic reason. I would also likely be more attractive and more confident to interact in social activities – sports, and so forth. I suppose that is a socially important reason. These all seem to be good reasons for why this goal should be fulfilled.
B: Is that not enough to be committed?
A: I don’t think so. So what if the goal is good. What if the method which I employ to lose weight isn’t good or isn’t effective?
B:  But if that is in doubt, why not doubt the reasons for the goal as well?
A: That’s another problem. Suppose that I’m wrong about both my reasons for the goal and the method that I employ. Surely then I shouldn’t be committed to something if I’m for both those reasons. My commitment would be the thing to blame, in addition to myself, if I was dead set on losing weight only to realize later that I shouldn’t have lost weight and that my method actually made me fatter or made me far too thin.
B: No, surely your reasons for why the goal was favorable and your reasons for why the method was effective are to blame. Instead, you should praise your commitment because without it this entire process wouldn’t have been possible. If you weren’t committed to this goal then you wouldn’t have found out if you were right or were wrong.
A: But how will I be able to know which part I was wrong about? Which assumption did I make that turned out to be false?
B: That’s largely irrelevant as far as commitment goes. You wouldn’t even be brought to ask that question without commitment. So even if you fail commitment still served an important role. Either way, your commitment seems justified. If you failed, commitment allowed to realize such failure.  If you succeeded, commitment allowed your goal to become fulfilled.
A: What about being committed in the face of risk? What, if by my commitment I risked too much for the sake of testing my hypothesis (the goal)? In the face of such risk isn’t commitment then a modification of faith?
B: This risk analysis would be a part of the decision making  for the goal and methods themselves. It would precede whether or not you should be committed.

As for commitment as faith: absolutely not. There is no faith involved. I suppose there is hope but that is mostly an emotional stance rather than an epistemic one. Your reasons for your goal and method should alone convince you that you should and can lose weight. The only thing left is to be committed to that goal for the reasons just defined as well as being committed as a test of those reasons. Otherwise, those reasons are largely useless. Supposing that if you aren’t committed, your goal goes unfulfilled.
A: But as we said before, my reasoning might be faulty or incomplete. I could be wrong. So if I recognize that I could be wrong but become committed anyways, then aren’t I taking a ‘leap of faith’?
B:  I won’t discount that you could use faith in order to become committed so that your goals become fulfilled or challenged but the commitment that I’m referring to can be down without giving up reason for the sake of the effectiveness of faith. All your reasoning tells you that your goal is good and your method is effective. As such commitment must follow in order to be good. If you’ve reasoned your way to a point where your goal is good, commitment is then an obligation in and of itself. However, any reasonable person should at least be open to the possibility that they may be wrong. As such, this possibility puts “commitment as a moral obligation” into doubt – in addition to everything else. However, commitment still stands as a test of this reason. And this reason must be tested – even if you are wrong – in order for it to have worth. This is what scientists do. They produce an hypothesis via reason, then test the hypothesis. If the hypothesis succeeds it is likely their reasoning was accurate. If it fails, back to the drawing board. Either way, progress is made.

Betting in Arguments

May 29, 2007

Hypothetical:

    John and Sarah are having a debate about gas prices. They dispense with     several fairly well substantiated arguments, John arguing that gas prices     will continue to rise unabated whereas Sarah is optimistic that they will         fall as alternative fuels become more popular. Suddenly, John becomes         frustrated and after Sarah claims “Gas prices will fall” John exclaims…

    “Wanna bet?”

Is it reasonable to ask this in a debate?

By asking this John is implicitly also asking “How much do you really believe in your argument?” or “How much faith do you have in the strength of your claims?” If she doesn’t bet, it seems reasonable for John to infer that she doesn’t have much faith in her own argument. And if she doesn’t have faith in her own argument, then her argument is likely weak to begin with.

But this is unreasonable. To me, I think the fact that John even asking the question is a sign of his own forfeit to the debate. Instead of analyzing arguments and evidence and the issue in question (gas prices) he decides to put Sarah’s belief into question. This seems unfair and tantamount to an ad hominem. And I would hope any open-minded critical thinker/skeptic would almost always decide not to bet either because he doesn’t really lose anything by doing so and a skeptic must always leave room for the possibility s/he might be wrong.

current work

Chris Jordan has a series of seemingly minimalistic art but when viewed under closer inspection it mosaically makes powerful statements on gun violence, drug abuse, mass consumption, government spending, and the prison system.

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Clash of the Cultures from 1UP.com

A deeply interesting analysis of how culture affects game design.

Zalibarek

February 25, 2007

:::: zalibarek ::::

I love surrealism, but there is only a few surrealist works and artist I truly enjoy. Surrealism has this strange ability to devolve into simply the bizarre, grotesque, and often pointless. There is surrealist art that challenges our perceptions and then is surrealism that is just “weird” in order to appear artistic.

Untitled

February 25, 2007

Resources – Stencil Revolution

This neo-graffitti stuff is going to be trumped by  lazer-light graffitti scenes but the stencil revolution (as old as Soviet Cold War propaganda) is/was great.