New essay on elite athletes
My essay “Bourdieu’s Field Theory Revisited: A Case for ‘National Signification’” has been published by Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, the peer-reviewed journal of the British Philosophy of Sport Association.
The essay is an attempt to demonstrate the continued viability of Pierre Bourdieu’s apparatus to analyse contemporary elite sports. Specifically, the essay argues that such an analysis can underpin a shift in our approach to the self-presentation of elite athletes. Drawing on studies of Ada Hegerberg, Magnus Carlsen, Henrik Kristoffersen, and Halvor Egner Granerud the article shows how the term “national signification” can serve us better than the more common “national identity” when we describe how these athletes variously reference the nation in their efforts to position themselves and their practice.
Read the article through your university library. The abstract is available for free from https://doi.org/10.1080/17511321.2023.2189293
Mesteparten av det du finner på denne bloggen er skrevet på engelsk. Men det er ikke noen grunn til at det ikke også kan postes ting her på norsk. Dette innlegget er derfor forfattet i dette lille, relativt nyankomne skriftspråket i den internasjonale språkfamilien. Det handler om
På bildet ser du Tor og Greta, pappaen og mammaen min. Når dette skrives forbereder de sitt felles bursdagslag: i år blir de begge 80. De er begge i ganske god form. De bor i en leilighet i en liten by på østkysten av Oslofjorden, Moss. I denne leiligheten klarer de seg fint på tomannshånd. De lager mat, besøker venner, ser på TV og spiser medisiner.
Faren min, Tor, er opptatt av sport på TV og også radio, når det er der de store begivenheter blir direkteoverført. Han liker mange grener, særlig fotball, skøyter, langrenn og friidrett. Utvalget på denne lista over øvelser kan ha sammenheng med hans egen, relativt kortvarige karriere som aktiv utøver. Han vokste opp i den bydelen av Moss som da ble kalt Faders Minde, men som de fleste i dag nok kjenner som Bellevue, etter navnet på fotballbanen i området. Bellevue ligger på Jeløya, som riktignok ikke egentlig er en øy, men en halvøy. Den lille jordflekken som bandt Jeløya sammen med fastlandet ble gravd ut på 1800-tallet, og der i dag ei bru over den kanalen. Da Tor vokste opp ble det hvert år lagt is på grusbanen på Bellevue, og han lærte å stå på skøyter der. Etterhvert utvikla han betydelige evner som konkurranseløper. Han konkurrerte særlig i langdistanse, og det var også i den sammenhengen at han pådro seg en skade som har kommet til å plage ham hele livet. På den tida trente skøyteløpere med vekter. Disse vektene kunne være betydelige, og under en av øvelsene, da Tor, med vekter på en stang på ryggen, forsøkte å bevege seg fra side til side, som om han skjøv seg framover på isen, var vekta på ryggen hans så stor at han ikke lenger klarte å holde stanga oppe. Den ryggskaden han pådro seg da førte først til at han måtte legge opp som skøyteløper og deretter til stadige plager i ryggen i det daglige.
Etter skøyteeventyret, der Tor hadde konkurrert helt i norgeseliten, fattet han interesse for orientering, en liten sport der utøverne løper i utmark mens de forsøker å navigere mellom ulike poster ved hjelp av angivelser på et kart. Tor ble en habil orienteringsløper, men da han etterhvert innså at mulighetene til å kunne fortsette å utøve denne idretten på et nivå han syntes var akseptabel ble mindre, og han dessuten hadde etablert familie, dabbet interessen av, og han ga seg etterhvert helt. I tillegg til skøyter og orientering har Tor helt fra ungdommen også vært interessert i løp, og da særlig mellomdistanse, og han videreførte denne interessen, som mosjonist, og løp utallige korte løp på naturstier i mossedistriktet til langt ut i 50-årsalderen.
Friidrett og skøyter har den fellesnevneren, og da særlig når eliteutøverne av disse grenene møtes til radio eller TV-overført dyst, at de innbyr til et analytisk og algebraisk engasjement. Da store skøytebegivenheter ble overført på radio i Tors ungdom kunne han sette seg ned, gjerne i lag med kamerater, med penn og papir og notere ned ikke bare resultatet til deltakerne, men også rundetidene deres ettersom de ble lest opp på radioen. Den utfylte tabellen kunne han da bruke til å regne seg fram til hvilken hastighet løperne holdt, om de tok innpå eller sakket akterut for løperne i andre par, og også lage prognoser for sluttiden. Likeledes i friidrett, og da særlig på langdistanse, der rundetidenen kunne noteres og deretter benyttes til relativt infløkte regnestykker som gjerne ble løst ved hjelp av hoderegning. Slik kunne Tor kombinere to av sine to interesser: sport og matematikk.
Tor var god på skolen. Det var ikke noe man kunne ta for gitt for en gutt som hadde to foreldre uten rare utdanninga. Faren til Tor, Tormod, arbeidet på Moss Glasværk, som det het da. Der arbeidet han med resirkulering og passet blant annet maskinen som vasket returnerte flasker. Det var tungt arbeid, Tormod fikk en ryggskade, og han ble tidlig ufør og pensjonist. Kona hans, Randine, hadde vasket bl.a. kontorer i Moss kommune for å spe på familiens samlede inntekt. Hun var dessuten politisk engasjert, en framstående tillitsvalgt i Moss Arbeiderparti’s relativt nye kvinneforening. Sammen hadde Tormod og Randine to barn, Tor, født i 1943, og lillesøsteren hans, Liss, som kom noen år seinere. Familien på fire vokste til i ei tid da samhørighet, dugnadsånd og en særlig oppmerksomhet mot samarbeid mellom arbeidsgivere og arbeidere sto sentralt. Glassverket deltok i en ordning der noen av fabrikkens ansatte fikk anledning til å kjøpe hver sin tomt på det som da var jorder ved Faders Minde. De som sto på denne lista over nye tomteeiere hjelp til med å bygge hverandres hus, på dugnad. Dermed hadde Tor og Liss’ venner og lekekamerater i bomiljøet liknende bakgrunn: De fleste hadde en far som arbeidet i industrien. Denne klassereisen, som hadde sin tydeligste manifestasjon i bevegelsen fra små og kummerlige boligforhold til et omfangsrikt og komfortabelt hus i naturskjønne og samtidig sentrale omgivelser, ga seg uttrykk i at Tor gjorde det godt på skolen: han hadde en sammenheng og et grunnlag som satte han i stand til å trives i læringsmiljøet.
Tors talenter på skolebenken gjorde at han fikk fortsette å lese språk og realfag, altså bl.a. matematikk. Da han var i slutten av tenårene, på tampen av 1950-tallet, var det ikke like vanlig som i dag å fullføre det som het gymnaset, det vi nå kaller videregående skole. Tor var likevel blant dem som gjennomførte dette høyeste skoleløpet. Han kunne dermed kalle seg artianer, etter navnet på graden gymnasistene oppnådde. Karakterene var dessuten gode nok til at han kunne studere både på Lærerskolen og også seinere på universitetet, der han tok et grunnfag i historie, med vekt på andre verdenskrig i Norge. Det var i løpet av og i forbindelse med dette skoleløpet at Tor møtte sin kone.
Greta Fjeld, født Edfeldt
Tor leste til artium på Moss Gymnas, det som i dag heter Kirkeparken videregående skole. Men allerede litt tidligere, det kan ha vært allerede mens han gikk på det som het reallinja, hadde han havnet i samme klasse som Greta Edfeldt. Da de etterhvert ble kjærester hadde de nok kjent hverandre, eller i det minste visst om hverandre, en god stund før allerede. I likhet med Tor var Greta var en skolebegavelse. Hennes interesse for skolefagene gjorde at hun trivdes bedre på skolebenken enn mange andre jevnaldrende jenter; det var ikke så vanlig for unge damer på den tida å bli forespeilet en framtid med skolefag, eller i arbeidslivet generelt. Greta vokste opp i et litt annet miljø enn kjæresten. Hennes foreldre eide en bygård i sentrum av Moss, og de bodde også i en av leilighetene i denne gården i hennes barndom.
Mora til Greta, Randi, var den eneste datteren til en relativt velstående kjøpmann, Harald Mathisen, som bl.a. solgte musikkplater, såkalte steinkaker, og andre artikler fra en butikk i byen. Han ble etterhvert bemidlet nok til å kunne kjøpe en relativt stor bygård i Dronningens gate, midt i sentrum. Da han falt fra i ung alder – “han arbeidet seg ihjel,” pleide Randi å si – gikk denne gården i arv til Randi og hennes fire brødre. Da gården etterhvert ble solgt kjøpte Randi og ektemannen Rolle Edfeldt en tomt og bygde hus på fasjonable Gernerlunden, ikke langt fra Melløs, vestvendt i åsen over Værlebukta. Det var i dette omfangsrike huset at Greta hadde sine ungdomsår sammen med foreldrene og sin yngre søster Aster.
Rolle, eller Rolland, som det sto på førerkortet hans, var utdannet regnskapsfører og førte bøkene for flere store bedrifter i Moss. Dette var i tida før masseutdanningen og management-bølgen slo over vårt kongerike, og regnskapsførere ble ansett som viktige og betydningsfulle, og gjerne plassert i ledergruppa i en mellomstor bedrift. Rolle var kontorsjef i en stor bilforretning i byen – de forhandlet bl.a. Ford – i en årrekke. Da den gikk overende fikk han en ny stilling, og der arbeidet Rolle til han gikk av med pensjon, men også etter dette fortsatte han med enkeltstående regnskapsoppdrag for mellomstore bedrifter i byen. Rolle var en omgjengelig, vennlig og gjestfri mann, som også kunne være tydelig og bestemt når det krevdes. Han deltok bl.a. i den militære motstandsbevegelsen i forsvaret av Norge i den andre verdenskrigs sluttfase, etter at Greta var født, og inntrykkene derfra bar han med seg resten av livet.
Randi sa på sine eldre dager at hun i sin ungdom hadde ønsket seg å kunne arbeide med å selge plater og slikt, men at den muligheten aldri kom. Istedet var Randi hjemmearbeidende husmor hele livet. Hun var flink til å ta vare på hjemmet, til å lage mat og skape en gjestfri stemning. Da Greta var ferdig med artium søkte hun seg derfor, og kanskje for å kunne leve opp til sin mors verdier, inn på det som het Husmorskolen i Moss. Der skulle de unge damene lære å lage mat, vaske tøy og generelt settes i stand til å skape gode hjem, alt på en moderne og kunnskapsbasert måte. Likevel virker det som Greta følte at dette ikke var noe hun ville gjøre på heltid resten av livet. Hun ville delta i arbeidslivet og skape en karriere for seg selv, i tillegg til å ha familie. Etter et halvt år som elev ved Husmorskolen begynte hun derfor å studere ved Lærerskolen i Halden. Det fikk hun også overtalt kjæresten Tor til å gjøre, og derfor kunne de to tidvis, og i lønn, overnatte på hverandres hybel i den lille byen helt sør i Østfold. Da foreldrene til Greta kom på besøk måtte Tor straks framstå fra sin beste og mest påkledte side, for på denne tiden kunne det ikke aksepteres at to ugifte ungdommer av motsatt kjønn delte hybel.
Likevel hadde ikke Rolle og Randi noe å utsette på Tor. De visste riktignok at hans foreldre levde under andre omstendigheter, men gapet mellom dem som arbeidet i forretningslivet med administrasjon, det engelskmennene kaller “white-collar workers”, og dem som arbeidet i industrien, såkalte “blue-collar workers”, var ikke lenger så stort og åpenbart som det hadde vært fram til begynnelsen av 1930-tallet. Vi kan tro at klassereisen til Tors familie, kombinert med hans åpenbare talenter på skolebenken og omgjengelige natur, gjorde ham fullt ut akseptable som en potensiell svigersønn og ektefelle til deres eldste datter. Inntrykket er derfor at Tor ble tatt i mot med åpne armer og nærmest betraktet som deres egen sønn. Da Tor og Greta ville gifte seg fikk de derfor sine foreldres velsignelse, og de var godt gift før de fikk barn, først Lars-Petter i 1966 og deretter meg, fire år seinere. Tor og Greta hadde fullført lærerutdannelsen, og Greta hadde begynt å arbeide ved Jeløy skole. Tor studerte ved Universitetet i Oslo, men ett år på Blindern virket tilstrekkelig; interessen for studier måtte vike plassen for alle de hverdagslige gjøremålene og gledene ved å ha familie, små barn og etterhvert også sitt eget et hus, sentralt plassert på vestsiden av Jeløya.
Det ble dermed slik at Tor i midten av 20-årsalderen vendte tilbake til barndommens øy, eller halvøy, strengt tatt, og fikk en stilling som ungdomsskolelærer på Hoppern skole, bare ti minutter gange fra huset han og Greta kjøpte og flyttet inn i. Tor underviste særlig i historie og norsk, men han hadde også en spesiell interesse for matematikk, og da særlig av den typen elevene lærte i ungdomsskolen på 70- og 80-tallet. Tor hadde spesielle evner i nær dialog med enkeltelever. Han var ofte i tett samhandling med dem som hadde det litt vanskelig hjemme eller i dagliglivet. I tillegg til å undervise arbeidet derfor også Tor som sosiallærer, og oppgaven hans var å følge opp enkeltelever med særlige tiltak. Da han ble mer erfaren som lærer begynte også interessen for lærernes rammevilkår å våkne, og han ble valgt til tillitsmann, først på skolen, deretter i byen, og tilslutt ble han gjenvalgt to ganger som leder for fylkesorganisasjonen til lærernes viktigste skoleforbund på den tida, Norsk Lærerlag. Totalt var Tor tillitsvalgt i rundt 16 år, nesten halve yrkeskarrieren. Organisasjonstalentet har åpenbart sammenheng med forholdene han vokste opp i – hans mors politiske engasjement, hans fars erfaringer med arbeidslivet –, men de er nok også en konsekvens av mer overordnede endringer i det norske samfunnet i den epoken han vokste opp i.
Greta arbeidet først på Refsnes i en årrekke, før hun ble rekruttert inn i den unge, dynamiske staben – der rekrutteringskriteriet var progressive pedagogikk – til den nyetablerte Ramberg skole. Greta hadde en sterk interesse for faget, som hun definerte som spesialpedagogikk. Hun arbeidet i barneskolen i hele sitt yrkesaktive liv, og til forskjell fra Tor arbeidet hun med alle skolefagene. Hun ble etterhvert også særlig interessert i barn som hadde særlig utfordringer, og i tråd med denne interessen etterutdannet hun seg innenfor spesialpedagogikk, med vekt på atferds- og migrasjonspedagogikk. Dette var deltid og i tillegg til full stilling som lærer og med to barn i ungdomsalderen. Likevel, etter et meget hardt studieløp fikk hun et lederansvar ved et tjenestested i Moss, og deretter som rektor, det som før het overlærer, på Skarmyra skole, den eldste skolen i Moss som fremdeles var virksom.
Ved siden av lærer og ledergjerningen i skolen fattet også Greta en politisk interesse, og engasjerte seg som voksen i Arbeiderpartiets lokale avsnitt i Moss. Hun hadde begavelse for politisk ledelse, ble satt opp på partiets liste ved lokalvalget, og ble valgt inn til å sitte i bystyret. Der fikk hun i oppdrag å lede Hovedutvalget for miljø, som da var et ganske nytt administrasjonsområdet for kommunen. I nært samarbeid med den nyansatte administrative sjefen for området lanserte hun ambisiøse planer for byen, og mange av ideene hennes er fremdeles med på å forme den byens utvikling.
Likevel var det i skolesektoren Greta og Tor hadde flest kontaktpunkter i det profesjonelle livet. Det kunne dukke opp saker på Skarmyra skole som kunne ha implikasjoner for Tors arbeidshverdag og vice versa. Tilsvarende var det sammenfallende politiske engasjementet en faktor som knytta dem sammen, selv om de naturligvis også hadde mange interesser som ikke var felles; Tor likte sport, Greta kvinnesaksarbeid, etc.
Tor og Greta likte å reise, og dro gjerne på tur med barna i sin egen bil. Det var ulike biler, men både Ford, Datsun og Citroen har vært blant merkene som Tor og Greta har anskaffet, blant annet i den hensikt å reise rundt i Tyskland og mellomeuropa, til Trondheim og Sverige med campingvogn, til hytta de bygde sammen med Rolle, og til og med til England, på bed and breakfast ferie. Når de var på reisefot var det viktig å ha et kulturelt og oppbyggende program. Typiske eventer kunne være sightseeing på et slott eller i en dyrepark. Greta leste mye før hver tur, bl.a. guider som man kunne kjøpe fra forlaget Berlitz. Derfor visste hun gjerne endel om landet, språket og historien før vi ankom, og hadde derfor et visst overtak i kunnskap, eller reisekompetanse, om du vil. Dette talentet for den gode forberedelse har definitivt vært en av Gretas styrker, både i arbeidslivet og på hjemmefronten. Det dreier seg om organiseringsevner i en litt annen forstand, men like viktig for organisasjonen.
Selvorganisering, eller autonomisering, har stått som et stikkord i den tenkemåten som har gjennomsyret Tor og Gretas virke både som profesjonelle lærere og som foreldre. Den avgjørende formuleringen har vært at barnet, ungdommen, subjektet, må få velge selv, men den voksne, lærerens, oppgave er å sette barnet i stand til å ta et informert valg. Tor og Greta var og er gode, kjærlige foreldre som slåss for sine barn. De er sjenerøse og veldig glade i barnebarn. Vår sønn, Tor Olav, har en framtredende plass i deres bevissthet.
Tor og Greta vil legge til at de har både mer utdanning og mer erfaring enn det som kommer fram her. Tor har i tillegg til Lærerskolen og et grunnfag i historie også fullført årsenheter i både spesialpedagogikk og medievitenskap som deltidsstudent. Likeledes har Greta videre utdanning, og også erfaring enn det som nevnes her. Mange takk til Fred Nublin Pettersen, Hanne Mathisen og alle andre som har bidratt med opplysninger til dette innlegget.
The most recent edition of Inscriptions features prominently a new essay by Pedro José Grande Sánchez on the topic of Michel Henry’s critique of technology. To Henry our age of scientific-technological domination has produced for us a world in which an objective and homogenising conception of the world has severed our connection to the world of the spirit. In the editorial we bring Henry’s notion of a ‘disease of life’ together with Wolfgang Schirmacher’s ‘death technology’, discussing whether what lies at the core of both these approaches is a common critique of instrumental reason. Read the full editorial in the latest issue of Inscriptions (open access).
A warmer year
It has become something of a common-place for social power-brokers to issue statements to mark the end of an old year and the beginning of a new. Kings do it, prime ministers and presidents do it, and should not also the Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts do it?
Thus, in the spirit of the less-than-haughty and dead-serious we offer the following:
2022 was great (for us, but really, this kind of reservation oughtn’t be necessary, as readers assume, in the absence of an explicit agent, that speakers nominally refer to their selves in their judgements – such reservations must be remnants of classical logic, or what certain venerable philosophers refer to as a “school philosophy” where priority was granted to an objective utterer) for these reasons:
- Restrictions legitimated by the spread of the corona virus largely ended or were radically reduced in scale and reach, which meant that
- Participants in the 2022 Ereignis Conference met on-site in Gdynia, in contrast to the previous year’s edition, which was held entirely online. Further,
- We welcomed our first students, registrants for our pre-recorded modules on Life Technologies, Ethics, and Wallace Stevens.
We carried on developing our learning site, moving from a showcase model to a dual model, keeping much content in the open, while reserving valuable content for registered users and students. As we are doing all coding in-house we’re curious to hear what you think about the present state of our site!
We look forward to 2023! We agree with those who say that one’s ability to set oneself outrageous goals is inversely proportional to one’s ability to fulfill those goals. (This is logic, really.) Nevertheless, we are looking to a year that will see
- Several new courses offered from Ereignis Institute, our learning site,
- A third, on-site and technically upgraded Ereignis Conference, and
- A growing realisation of the inter-connectedness of our contemporary world.
It’s early January 2023 in Gdynia, Poland. Trees, bushes and flowers are preparing for spring. Instead of snow and winter hats we have 14 degrees (Celcius), bare roads, and t-shirts. Opinion is divided on what the cause or causes of this unseasonal burst of warm weather may be. We at Ereginis Center for Philosophy and the Arts limit ourselves to observe that we seem to be heading towards a warmer year, a warmer future. This event, the green winter, can serve to remind us of what it is to have faith. To paraphrase the late Pope Benedict XVI, faith is not a set of norms, books, or rituals. It is not even a community. Faith is an event.
All the best for 2023.
Living philosophy: new essay on Schirmacher’s philosophy of education
For Wolfgang Schirmacher philosophy has always been as much about “doing” as about “knowing”; the domains of traditional essays and other forms of philosophical praxis are deeply connected. In a new essay published by Journal of Silence Studies in Education I explore how the philosophy programme at European Graduate School (EGS) can be considered a concrete product of this kind of practical interlacing. “The silence of the educated” is available for free from this link.
These are strange times, also for Americans. We read in the New York Times that – expectedly – opinion in that country on matters such as gun control, abortion, presidential self-management, etc, is divided along party lines. What is strange is how certain voices cannot but surface, providing a more sane view of the current political climate. Eg, toward the end of said NYT article we find the following interview:
Jacqueline Beck-Manheimer, 58, is an independent who has voted for third-party candidates in recent presidential contests. She works at an employment services company in Albuquerque and said her news diet consisted of YouTube shows that presented stories they claim the mainstream media is ignoring, including the channel of Russell Brand, an actor who has become a prominent purveyor of coronavirus conspiracy theories.
Ms. Beck-Manheimer said she was upset about the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights, members of Congress who took corporate campaign contributions, the increased size of the defense budget and profits that pharmaceutical companies made in selling coronavirus vaccines to the federal government.
The government’s problems would be easier to solve, she said, if the news media weren’t invested in sowing division among Americans.“It’s the media who stokes the culture war,” she said. “It’s all a provocation to distract us from what what’s really going on, and what’s really going on is nothing but big businesses and their money.”
One thing is that “conspiracy theorist” now has become a catch-all to plaster on anyone who has a different opinion than Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, another is that it is as if pointing out that the pharmaceutical sector, one of the world’s most profitable (see eg this recent link), is making enormous gains on our present obsession with good health, has now become a concern of statistical outliers.
Strange times, indeed.
Schirmacher’s event of technology
How do we think about the philosophical legacy of Martin Heidegger today, and how does the answer to that question influence our assessment of his student Wolfgang Schirmacher’s philosophy of technology? These are the main questions in this talk presented at the Alone Together Conference, the third edition of the International Pandisciplinary Symposium on Solitude in Community, on March 31, 2022. Central to the discussion is Heidegger’s notion of Ereignis, or event, and how it has shaped Schirmacher’s philosophy of technology generally, and his concept of Homo Generator specifically.
New poem in translation
“When the rock mirrors itself it is not out of vanity. The mirror reveals everything, the rock nothing.” New poem by Tor Ulven in translation on the poetry page.
Inscriptions 5n1: Editorial
Inscriptions 5, n1, is out with ten original essays on Being and event. With this issue we inaugurate our initiative for Creative criticism, while modifying our publication practices for visual arts. Read an excerpt from the Editorial here.
It is with trepidation and joy we begin to circulate this fifth volume of Inscriptions. What started as a small project, well hidden in the more obscure corners of contemporary thought, has grown to something quite different: as our readership is growing, so are our demands of ourselves and the journal we make, which in turn generates interest from a widening circle of thinkers, writers, and scholars. This issue is special; it is devoted to Being and Event, the topic of a conference hosted by Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts in June last year. Many essays in this issue are reworked versions of papers presented there, and have benefited from scholarly dialogue initiated at that event. In all cases essays published by Inscriptions are subject to double-blind review by two external peers.
We stand by our founding principles, continuing to insist on scholastic rigour and quality in everything we publish. Nevertheless, those who undertake a project such as ours, partly experimental and wholly entertained outside institutional and corporate sedimented structures, will encounter situations that strongly compel them to modify their path. The observant reader will already have noticed that this issue does not include a section on arts. Our decision not to include artworks in a separate section is due to two considerations. First, while we have been delighted with the artworks we had published thus far we have come to recognise that our format severely restricts the kinds of art we can disseminate and the quality by which we are able to reproduce them. At this time Inscriptions is limited to PDFs: images we publish must therefore have fixed size and fit within the A4 format. This really is a technologically superfluous requirement. As we have continued to publish the artworks from Inscriptions in galleries at our sister site ereignis.no/ we have come to recognise the advantages of online galleries: they enable a wider range of formats (videos, audio files, GIFs, etc.), and they can be maintained with greater ease, and in a way that is much more conducive to a proper display of artworks than a scholarly journal can ever do.
Our second consideration has been a desire to pool our resources to enable us to make the best scholarly journal possible. While this led to some soul-searching we decided to concentrate our efforts on scholarship, albeit with our own particular angle: beginning with this issue we include creative criticism as a new category of scholarly articles, and while these texts will be submitted to the same rigorous double-blind review as other texts we encourage authors to submit articles that challenge the traditional scholastic format: we look for texts that explicitly reflect on methods and practices, including lyrical and personal reflections. While we will continue to pursue our interest in the arts, and also to publish artworks in this journal when appropriate, as well as in the galleries at ereignis.no/, we believe that our reformulated editorial policies will prepare the ground for a better, stronger, and more focussed effort in an emerging area of scholarly open access publishing.
Read the entire editorial at inscriptions.tankebanen.no/.
In our hours of drift and idleness we have taken to rereading some Ulven. In the prose book Gravegifts (Gravgaver, 1988) Tor Ulven commented on the 22 November, 1953 recording of Brahms’s “Tragic Overture,” in which Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall for 14 minutes and 7 seconds.
“In these old recordings it seems as if he [Toscanini] tries to play as fast as possible in order to incorporate as much music as feasible before death’s arrival: Brahms’ mild, pastoral serenade in A major rushes furiously by under the ageing orchestral tyrant’s baton as if it was a matter of putting an end to the slow, sunny hours of life as quickly as possible; as if in a fit of nervous rage he had commenced to tear up the entirety of the calendar’s summer leaves in order to arrive more quickly at a different summer, somewhere else. [...] I existed in these roughly 14 minutes while Arturo Toscanini, a former cellist, conducted a tragic overture that contained -- and still contains -- a wisdom to which I must at that time have been a complete stranger, since we would have to survive blindly and without question for years before we attain the level of reflection necessary for us to understand that life essentially is impossible, and by that time it is already too late to become unmade and to never have existed. Thus, we have never seen a newborn resign to destiny and reject the temptations of life (such as milk) with a tired wring of the hand, or to nostalgically long back to a distant past as non-existent.”
Translated by Torgeir Fjeld.
The Doors (of Perception)
We’re fortunate to have good access to updates on American popular culture on our television. Recently we watched a documentary on the popular music outfit The Doors, When You’re Strange (dir. Tom DiCillo, 2010), which differs from the celebrated biopic on Jim Morrison, featuring Val Kilmer as the protagonist (The Doors, dir. Oliver Stone, 1991), in that it takes a less heroic view on the vocalist. To Oliver Stone, Morrison stood as the countercultural hero of the (Left) 1960s/70s, and his demise symbolised the victory of the dark, reactionary forces of jingoist America over the freedom-loving individual of the youth revolution.
The 1991 biopic suffers from this narrow frame, and in the Stone film Morrison’s brilliant bandmates Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist, and Morrison’s own favourite on slide guitar, Robby Krieger, are placed firmly in the background, as props for the ever-present and mysteriously genial Morrison.
DiCillo’s documentary takes a more complex view, both on the band, and on Morrison himself. First, there is no doubt left that the particular sound and approach was a team effort, and that when the group later tore apart the responsibility lay squarely on Morrison’s shoulders. Second, the documentary seems truthful in its portrayal of Morison’s shy character. He stood with his back to the crowd for the first concerts, not daring to face them; he talked disparagingly of photo sessions and portraits of himself; and, most importantly, he saw himself as a literary poet, dedicated to writing and the written word. Never was he as happy as when he was able to write sensitive and meaningful words to be read or heard as literary achievements, when he recorded his own spoken word poetry, or when Simon & Schuster decided to publish a collection of his poetry. The stage and its fame was alluring, but his awkwardness with crowds and other people made Morrison a stranger, even in the midst of adoration and hero-worship, a state of affairs that was sadly perpetuated with Stone’s 1991 biopic.
So was it fame that murdered Morrison? Or was it alcohol? DiCillo’s documentary leaves it open. In a country so infatuated with popularity and monetary success the urge to write poetry or participate in any other kind of high cultural endeavour for its own sake must seem strange indeed. And Morrison was strange, to his times, and, ultimately, to himself. The frontier mentality is brought out well in his relationship to his father, a combatant in the Vietnam war. On one of The Doors’s first albums Morrison had declared in the liner notes that his family was “dead.” In return, or so it may seem, his father, when asked later about his superstar son, answered journalists that Jim should immediately end his musical career, as he had no talent for it. The skirmishes continued into the family, and in the end an uprooted Morrison died alone in his bathtub in a Paris hotel, drunk beyond his wits, and far away from his adoring culture.
He kept looking for his literary roots, his Rimbaud, his Chopin, and his Oscar Wilde.
John Fiske has passed
To those interested in Media Studies, and particularly early Cultural Studies of Television, John Fiske was a powerhouse. Sadly, he passed on July 12, 2021, due to complications following heart surgery.
Fiske revived what was then called “Telecommunications Studies” and made it become an integral part of the larger (and burgeoning) domain of Cultural Studies. Fiske wrote on television, race, and power, and is probably best known for the books Television Culture and Understanding Popular Culture, both widely used 101-level introductions.
Fiske taught at several universities in his native UK and in Australia before relocating to teach at Wisconsin. Fiske was among the first to regard television programmes as texts that could be decoded, and in this respect he was one of a number of scholars who took post-structuralist theories as crucial to their understanding of how popular cultural artifacts are made meaningful.
Here’s a quote that captures the type of cultural analysis we find in the work of Fiske and his generation (from his Wikipedia entry): “Culture (and its meanings and pleasures) is a constant succession of social practices; it is therefore inherently political, it is centrally involved in the distribution and possible redistribution of various forms of social power.”
An obituary on Fiske is available from U Wisconsin: https://commarts.wisc.edu/in-memoriam-john-fiske/.
Being/Ruptured: Bruce Lee’s liberation as event
The liberation of Bruce Lee was and indeed is an event that doesn’t promise to heal the rupture of the self, the fighter, or being, but that seeks to overcome divisions in order to incorporate them and make them part of the totality that is us. View the presentation “Being/Ruptured: Bruce Lee’s liberation as event,” given at the 3rd Wrocław Chinese Martial Arts Congress 11 April 2011. Approx. 20 mins.
Riise to coach Lionesses
Hege Riise has been appointed new head coach of England Women, the Lionesses. When we met for an interview 20 years ago Riise, herself an accomplished international, emphasised how sport has the power to bridge the gender gap: “the joy and involvement the players demonstrate when we score [in international competitions] carries around the whole country.” Football truly unites people across boundaries.
CfP Event and Becoming: the Inaugural Ereignis Conference
June 11, 2021. How does the event puncture the smooth flow of becoming? And what is it like, the event in which we become ourselves? These are among our key questions in this first Ereignis conference. Headlined by internationally acclaimed speakers on appropriation and becoming, this conference seeks to merge profound and innovative thought with practical approaches to becoming. How do we arrive into our own?
We seek structured, well-argued papers that show evidence of rigorous scholarship. For the section Practice/s we seek interventions that challenge the traditional academic conference format, establish new ground, and open up for new ways of thinking and being together. All proposals should include an abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short author bio (max. 50 words), including the author’s current affiliation and interest. Submission deadline: 15 April, 2021.
More info ereignis.no/School.
Radical OA as a front
Academic publishing has undergone great changes the last few years. One major driver in this change is the relatively recent adoption by the European Union of the Plan S initiative, a codex implemented to ensure open access to the products of academic work. Established private publishers have responded by accepting some degree of open access, instead demanding sizeable publication fees from authors, which in most cases means the authors’ institutions of employment. The effect has been that while university libraries in the past had large outlays to receive copies of scholarship produced by researchers employed by their own institutions, they now receive it without cost. Instead the institutions have to pay to get the scholarship published in the first place.
Let’s distinguish from the outset from a loose alliance of bodies that with a wide variety of motives seek to further public access to scholarship, and a far more narrow and more militant radical open access grouping. The first of these alliances emerged from a fair response to what is now largely recognised as a social injustice: how can it be that while the public have financed scholarship from their purse (through taxes that underpin academic institutions in most countries) they have been barred from access to the very fruits of that funding, the academic output in the form of journal publications? The Plan S initiative was one particularly successful response to this situation: through it private, corporate publishers have been compelled to recuperate their costs through other means than subscription, the most ubiquitous of which is author fees.
The Radical OA group, on the other hand, points out, rightfully, that the fees dictated by corporate publishers, whether from readers for subscriptions or from authors for publication, generate funds that go far beyond the component costs of processing and publishing academic articles. Some critics have noted that today the most prestigious journals are owned and controlled by an increasingly narrow band of corporations; only five global publishers now have the most important journals at their disposal, and their resulting bottom-lines are staggering and growing. It appears that these corporate companies have adapted very well to Plan S and the attendant calls for public access to socially generated scholarship. In other words, what we have is a small group of increasingly powerful publishers that generate unheard-of revenue in order to bolster their position in a competitive publishing market, a market that can be characterised as nothing but as a field of fierce competition between rivalling corporation founded on the principles of capital investment and returns, i.e. the system of production Karl Marx referred to as Capitalism.
What is clear from the outset is that the general open access movement, instituted through initiatives such as Plan S, and the more militant Radical Open Access group have very different aims. While the EU have undersigned the aim to open up the results of scholarship that has been funded by the public to those who have footed the bill, i.e. the taxpayers, there is nothing in Plan S that seeks to undermine the motivation to generate profit on capital investment, an obvious driver to corporate publishers when they have repositioned in response to Plan S. This latter purpose is, however, a strong motivator for the Radical OA group. In other words, what this group seeks is not merely to give the public access to scholarship that they themselves have funded, but to undercut the possibility for corporate publishers to generate profit on their academic journals.
While working against profit in publishing is perfectly legitimate, it isn’t entirely clear that generating profit from research is essentially any different from generating profit from other social activities, such as running a restaurant, a newspaper, a grocery store, or a social media network. Rather, it seems as if the main driver for Radical OA is not primarily open access, but that it should be radical, and this radicality is defined by its opposition to generate profits on capital investments, or, to put it differently, what the Radical OA grouping is opposed to is the capitalist mode of production and its inherent profit motive.
For this to be a fine and honourable purpose we should ask that Radical OA’s articulate clearly their political aspiration. Is their first concern to gain open access to publicly funded scholarship? Or are we witnessing the structure of a front organisation: while apparently working to further open access, is Radical OA exploiting a generally favourable public sentiment towards open access to promote their larger anti-capitalist project?
We will await good answers.
Ereignis: the thought
We are expanding the Library of our Ereignis website. Recently we added some more detail to our approach to what the term Ereignis might mean. Does it ring true or interesting to you? We’d be very interested in hearing your views!
Ereignis is a way to understand technology and our everyday world, an approach to life, and a distinct philosophy. We begin by unpacking the multiple meanings of the word; we then go on to identify a vision, an obstacle, and a new reality. In the end we ask to what service Ereignis can be put to enable us to become who we are.
1. The meaning of Ereignis
Ereignis is a complex and intriguing word, even in the German. As a noun (an Ereignis) it basically means an unusual or special event, or, simply, something that has happened. However, when we investigate further we realise that there are vast arrays of potential meanings to this term. Synonyms suggested by the dictionary include occasion, interlude, opportunity, experience, happening, thing, and an event. At the etymological root of Ereignis we find that this is an event that is derived from the verb ereignen, designating something that plays itself out, as if by destiny.
One influential interpreter sought to distinguish the prefix er- from the stem eignen. It is when we consider eignen as a cognate of Augen that we get a sense in which ereignen is intimately connected to our vision, to what we see or have in our view. In German, the derived zueignen and aneignen means to acquire and appropriate respectively, and the verb eigen simply means to own. If an event only truly occurs when it is seen or observed, then what has happened can only be determined with by referring to what observers have called it to themselves, their interpretation, or appropriation, of the event.
To er-eignen, then, seems to mean to make something one’s own, in by appropriating it, acquiring it’s key meaning, or giving voice to its sense. This is important, because at the core of the eigen lies eigentlich, designating an event’s underlying cause, or its reality. In other words, what something really is, or what actually happens, can only come out through appropriation, of by distinguishing what it was that we experienced. This event, then, does not only refer to the happening itself, but crucially also to the act of making the event one’s own.
2. Philosophies of Ereignis: Heidegger, Schirmacher, Badiou
Ereignis is an experience and an approach to life. Our technological understanding of the world can bar us from this experience. Opening up for the multiplicity of reality we can rediscover the world as a sacred place.
2.1 Heidegger: nearness
There is no doubt that it was the game-changing philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) that brought the term Ereignis onto the stage of modern thought. In an essay on the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin Heidegger described how it feels to descend from the mountainous Alps, the returning and homecoming, and in this essay he associates this descent with a mystical experience of Ereignis.
Heidegger gave the term Ereignis the task of connecting Being, or the divine, with our lives. To Heidegger Being reveals itself as a light which enables it to become visible to itself. Being, or the divinity, gives, sends, or destines beings, such as ourselves, in an ongoing unfolding of self-awareness. Heidegger thought of this double movement as Being alternately disclosing or refusing itself, or, in a word, as a “clearing-concealing.” Ereignis is a term to describe this sense in which Being is self-giving or self-refusing, or what Heidegger mystically referred to as the “Ereignis of presencing.”
To be present, then, or to experience a presencing, is in Heidegger’s terminology to be in the nearness of Being. When Heidegger held that this nearness nevertheless can never be fully present he began from the assertion that the German phrase Es gibt, there is, not merely points to an empty placeholder “Es,” it/there, but that it serves to highlight the giving of the Es, rendering the phrase as literally “It gives.” In so far as the “It” here refers to Being, the giving that is provided by it is its own presence. However, even Heidegger acknowledges that this “It” is inaccessible to ordinary thinking; therefore we should turn to the poets, and particularly the recollective verse of Hölderlin, to be brought into “It’s” nearness.
2.2 Schirmacher: metaphysical technique
Now, what is the reason that we find ourselves removed from Being, at a distance from our own existence, in our daily lives? Heidegger was quite clear on this, referring to the reduction of the world from a place of transport and enchantment to an experience where we are oblivious to the things themselves as Gestell. Rather than a world revealing itself as a holy place, and the things within it as radiant, sacred beings, Gestell reduces things to mere resources that can only serve as means to ends. Wolfgang Schirmacher, a philosopher of technology, continues Heidegger’s thought to name this blockage “metaphysical technique,” a complex expression of attempts to dominate life by technical mastery, a technological fix which we often think of as either technological optimist, or utopianism.
Governed by an “instrumental prejudice,” Schirmacher writes, the metaphysical technique is an “ingenious expression of a technology of survival” where all objects, everything we encounter, are regarded with suspicion, as “potentially hostile.” This is why the dominant metaphysical technique seeks to bring the entirety of our external world “under control under all circumstances and by all means.” It is this naïve belief in technological supremacy which leads to the present explanation of all our shortcomings as a “lack of technology:” when our world is gradually brought to an end and destroyed with the aid of modern technology the often misunderstood response is to claim that it is not modern technology, or, rather metaphysical technique, that has brought this upon us, but the wrong use of instruments or an insufficient determination of their purpose; in this view our current fix is due to an incorrect application of technology. When metaphysical technique encounters failure its answer is to stubbornly pursue the same path with even more determination, and to explore and exploit further its beaten path of domination by technical knowledge.
Against this Schirmacher holds that the destructive effects of metaphysical technique cannot be defeated on its own ground, i.e. by further pursuing an accumulation of data, or positive knowledge. Technology, or, more precisely metaphysical technology, serves to conceal the world to us, and more knowledge of this kind will not reveal the world anew. In the words of Schirmacher:
If the concealment of technology is not revealed by knowledge, but paradoxically rather strengthened, only ignorance can help. Ignorance does not only mean the absence of knowledge, but indicates the Socratic admission of ignorance, which is to say a knowledge that deprives knowledge of its self-evident right.
What Schirmacher prescribes is the ancient philosophical cure: truth telling, but not as a simple mechanism to verify positive knowledge, but, rather, the Socratic model as an approach to life. Truth of this kind cannot ultimately be found by testing hypotheses, but emerges from a technique in which “facts are shown as they are conceived by us.” Against metaphysical technique with its “emptiness artfully filled with an abstract language of evidence and justifications,” truth technique makes the world in its entirety appear in a glimpse, and yet as if eternally.
To overcome metaphysical technique it is required of us to pose an entirely different subject, or I, so that we again can enter into an essential and poetic relation to the world. Overcoming metaphysical technique does not mean that we leave modern technology behind, but that we abandon its use as “denizens of the night-time,” and instead treat machines and practice the sciences behind them as “dwellers of the radiant world of the Ereignis.”
Somewhere along this path we join in with others who have abandoned the cage of metaphysical technique, fellow travellers who seek to give up on exploitation and abuse so as to become guardians, custodians, and nurturers of beings, and, by implication of the Event itself. Our question is how we are going to conceive of Ereignis in this sense.
2.3 Badiou: the new reality
One way to approach this seminal Event is suggested by the philosophy of Alain Badiou. Here, the event is a way to understand how reality intrudes into our everyday experience. To Badiou reality is a void grounded in an inconsistent multiplicity, a structure which cannot ultimately be upheld in any social or personal totality. Therefore, countless elements of this reality are excluded from the totality we perceive as our everyday existence, and it is when any of these elements imposes itself upon us, engendering a complete shift in our structure of perception, that we truly can talk about an Event in Badiou’s sense.
To Badiou the event opens up our everyday appearance of normality, enabling a sudden opportunity to rethink our lives as a whole. Since the event can be compared to a ripping open in the fabric of established reality it offers exhilarating possibilities for participants that can nevertheless be experienced as demanding for those who are tasked with assimilating the event. In Badiou’s view a real event generates not only new ways of thinking about the world, but also new truths. What previously didn’t count, Badiou writes, comes to interrupt the continuity of determinism, thereby generating something completely new.
An utter reformulation of prevalent prejudices and assumptions cannot be programmed in advance. Rather, Badiou holds that a true event can only be grasped retrospectively, and that it cannot have a presence. The event, in effect, suspends the chronology of time, becoming ubiquitous: at the moment of the event it is everywhere and nowhere. In other words, we cannot really realise an event until after it has passed, when we try our best to assimilate it into an opportunity we couldn’t have lived without.
3. Becoming who we are
Ereignis is about approaching the clearing, letting things stand out as they are, and the festive experience, i.e. the sense in which we let the world reveal itself as a sacred place. When we overcome metaphysical technology, an approach to life that only allows the world and others to appear as instruments or means to an end, we can again be brought into the nearness of a Being that gives and reveals itself. By returning to telling the truth we can experience the void of an inconsistent multiplicity that constitutes reality, and out of this void we can begin to rethink our lives and generate an entirely new reality.
It is when we regain this new ground we can begin to realise and become who we truly are. Thus is the experience of Ereignis.
New book: The Time Machine edited by Poul Houe
The Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness. H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
We’re happy to announce the publication of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, a new volume in our series Know Your Classics. Our edition is edited and introduced by Poul Houe, Professor Emeritus of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Minnesota. The Time Machine redefined the science fiction genre to include concepts like spacetime, as well as recent innovations in biology and sociology. H.G. Wells’ text, first published in serial format, became an instant hit, and has since become the centrepiece of not only numerous films and radio plays, but of our very conceptualisation of the future. As Poul Houe notes in his newly written introduction, “by way of the Time Machine we can travel out of ‘Now’ into both the distant past and future.” Sometimes referred to as having prophetic abilities H.G. Wells’ described a future that is credible and characterised by inventions that combine utopian and dystopian sentiments. Coupling Wells’ text with Houe’s introduction, and a newly written biography of H.G. Wells, this volume makes the classical text available to new generations of readers.
Know Your Classics
Know your Classics is a collection of carefully selected texts offered in a new, informative and entertaining frame. With an informative introduction and a new biography each of our books in this series are given a modern, inviting typography that places them in our contemporary era. These are unmissable remixes of classics everyone should read.
H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, edited and introduced by Poul Houe, joins
- Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, edited and introduced by Monika Žagar;
- Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, edited and introduced by Jørgen Veisland;
- Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, edited and introduced by Jørgen Veisland.
Support independent publishing by ordering these titles through one of our distributors. Our full catalogue with links to booksellers is available here.
Know your Classics are e-books and paperbacks from utopos publishing.
Inscriptions 3, n2: Power in a time of pandemic is out
Among our key questions in this open issue is the relation between the subject and power: what is the substance and appearance of the sovereign, what is the domain and limits of state power, and what are the effects of governance in the time of a health scare. Two short texts by Giorgio Agamben show how a religion of science became a tool to administer an exceptional governmentality under the pandemic. This issue features contributions by Leopold Haas, Christopher Norris, Mehdi Parsa, Lukas Reimann, Philippe Stamenkovic, and Regina Surber.
Inscriptions is published online and in print, and is indexed by, among others, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Our issues are archived electronically and in print by Norway’s National Library. ISSN: 2535-7948 (print) and 2535-5430 (online).
- Inscriptions 3, n2: Power in a time of pandemic, July 2020
- Inscriptions 3, n1: Outsourced!, January 2020
- Inscriptions 2, n2: Kierkegaard, July 2019
- Inscriptions 2, n1: The Global Unconscious, January 2019
- Inscriptions 1, n1-2: Consecrations, July 2018
CfP Inscriptions 4, n1: Artificial Life: ethics and the good life
Deadline for proposals: 15 September 2020. Full manuscripts due 15 October 2020.
Ethics, the question of how to live right and well, has been one of philosophy’s key concerns from its beginnings. In the thought of Wolfgang Schirmacher the ethical life is connected to artifice: subjected to the event of technology we recognise our ethical being in mediated form, and it is through reflecting on this our present condition that we can begin regain our composition as ethical subjects.
For our volume 4, n1, Inscriptions, a journal for contemporary thinking on art, philosophy and psycho-analysis, seeks essays that reflect on, interrogate, and bring new perspectives to the notion of artificial life and ethical living in general. Key questions include:
- How must I compose myself in order to live a good, satisfying life?
- What is the good life, and what values are relevant to us in our present time?
- How has the figure of the subject been challenged by our technological order, and how may we begin to ethically reassess our present condition?
Please submit a brief proposal (of up to 300 words) or full-length manuscript (of up to 5000 words) through our online platform. Proposals receive a preliminary assessment. All scholarship published by Inscriptions undergo double-blind peer review. We also accept book reviews, commentaries, and short interventions of up to 1500 words.
Open Access, no APCs
Access to content in this journal remains open on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. For this upcoming issue we will not charge authors for submission or publication.
Inscriptions is published online and in print, and is indexed by, among others, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Our authors include Wolfgang Schirmacher, Siobhan Doyle, Christopher Norris, and Jørgen Veisland.
Our issues are archived electronically and in print by Norway’s National Library.
- Inscriptions 3, n2: Open Issue, July 2020
- Inscriptions 3, n1: Outsourced!, January 2020
- Inscriptions 2, n2: Kierkegaard, July 2019
- Inscriptions 2, n1: The Global Unconscious, January 2019
- Inscriptions 1, n1-2: Consecrations, July 2018
Philosophers at a distance
Justin Weinberg, the editor over at The Dail Nous (pronounced /nu:s/) has committed a witticism, and it is worth quoting at some length. How do philosophers respond to being told they have to “social distance” and avoid leaving their homes?
Zeno of Elea: “Don’t worry, I can never reach anyone anyway.”
Plato: “Okay everybody, change of plans: stay inside your caves!”
Hume: “Look, just because social distancing worked before doesn’t mean it’s going to work now. And I’m in the middle of a backgammon game!”
Descartes: “I doubt anyone else is around.”
Kant: “It may be bad if we don’t social distance but that’s irrelevant, for if we imagine as a universal law of nature everyone staying six feet apart in order to survive, then we immediately see a contradiction, as humankind would have long gone extinct, and so would be unable to follow such a law.”
Berkeley: “Can we all just not give this virus another thought?!”
From “Philosophers Respond to Social Distancing” by Justin Weinberg.
Žižek on the pandemic
In his new intervention Slavoj Žižek (“Monitor and Punish? Yes, Please!”) advocates international solidarity in the face of the ongoing epidemic, on the grounds that such solidarity is “the only rationally egotistic thing to do.” He refers to such international coordinated action as communism, and, to be clear from the outset, this would be a very different iteration than the one experienced by Žižek and millions of other Eastern and Central Europeans in their youth:
We, ordinary people, who will have to live with viruses, are bombarded by the endlessly repeated formula “No panic!”… and then we get all the data that cannot but trigger a panic. The situation resembles the one I remember from my youth in a Communist country: when government officials assured the public that there was no reason to panic, we all took these assurances as clear signs that they were themselves in a panic.
But panic is not a proper way to confront a real threat. When we react in a panic, we do not take the threat too seriously; we, on the contrary, trivialize it. Just think of how ridiculous the excessive buying of toilet paper rolls is: as if having enough toilet paper would matter in the midst of a deadly epidemic…
Interestingly, Žižek then goes on to compare the being of a virus to that of the spirit, our soul:
To quote a popular definition …: “viruses are considered as being non-living chemical units or sometimes as living organisms.” This oscillation between life and death is crucial: viruses are neither alive nor dead in the usual sense of these terms. They are the living dead: a virus is alive due to its drive to replicate, but it is a kind of zero-level life, a biological caricature not so much of death-drive as of life at its most stupid level of repetition and multiplication.
Is human spirit also not some kind of virus that parasitizes of the human animal, exploits it for its own self-reproduction, and sometimes threatening to destroy it?
The virus, then, like the spirit is an indivisible remainder of our own being, a remnant we cannot, finally, expel, but with which we, nevertheless, have a parasitic relation:
When nature is attacking us with viruses, it is in a way sending our own message back to us. The message is: what you did to me, I am now doing to you.
In this sense it is as if the pandemic urges us to reconsider the universality of the golden rule. It is, we could argue, in our rational self-interest to do onto our neighbour what we would do onto ourselves when the way we act upon others returns to us, if nothing else, as a virus.
The entire text is available from The Philosophical Salon.
Book out on utopos: Veisland edits Wuthering Heights
utopos publishing, the English-language imprint of Tankebanen forlag, is out with a new volume in our series Know Your Classics. In this book Professor Jørgen Veisland edits and introduces Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, noting how Brontë gives us a glimpse into a Victorian society replete with inhibitions and repressions that resist the unlocking of hidden meanings constituting the psychological, moral and epistemological plot of the text, the partly hidden but real plot within. Veisland provides some valuable keys to these hidden rooms. In this edition of Wuthering Heights the novel is supplemented with Veisland’s informative introduction, a new biography of Emily Brontë, and a modern, inviting typography that places the text in our contemporary era. Available softbound and as e-book.
Scruton, the grateful philosopher, departs
Roger Scruton, a friend of Central Europe, author, teacher, and philosopher, has passed. In what surely must be one of his last living publications Scruton declared in The Spectator that 2019 gave him much to be joyous about, such as
- learning from Wagner’s Parsifal that “our highest aspirations grow from our darkest griefs, and that the gate to fulfilment stands on the way of loss”;
- his reinstatement as chair of the British government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, and the plentiful letters of support he received, making Scruton think that he was “listening to the speeches at my own funeral, with the unique chance of nodding in agreement”;
- receiving Poland’s Order of Merit, and also “with an added touch of Polish humour” the Ministry of Culture’s prize for architecture, making Scruton leave with “a heart full of gratitude for another country where I would be welcome as a refugee.”
Read his full 2019 retrospective.
Inscriptions 3, n1: Outsourced! Mediatisation and revolt is out
Outsourcing is a way to get someone else to act on our behalf. In psycho-analysis the term is also used for instances of exteriorised reception, politics, or belief. This issue of Inscriptions considers cases when such outsourcing is non-subjectivised, i.e. when there is a knowledge “out there,” in the Real, but where it is not yet possible to say who it is that believes. Tidhar Nir’s essay on the experience of shock in art explores how the ego can be resituated within such knowledges, while Jørgen Veisland proposes a model for how the artistic imagination shields itself from, and yet incorporates, knowledges “in the Real.” This “Real” is very much present in the work of our editor Sharif Abdunnur, who explains what it is like to teach in the context of an ongoing revolt in Lebanon. We also present a series of paste-ups and murals by the street artist AFK that bring up complex debates while also giving us a glimpse into the holy. Inscriptions is an international, interdisciplinary double-blind peer-reviewed journal that publishes contemporary thinking on art, philosophy and psycho-analysis.
ISSN 2535-7948 (print)/2535-5430 (online).
Perversion’s Beyond reviewed in Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature
The international journal Interdicsiplinary Studies of Literature features a review of Perversion’s Beyond written by Professor Jørgen Veisland in their most recent issue. Veisland writes:
Dr. Fjeld’s book is a tour de force through Freudian and Lacanian theory. The book offers innovative interpretations of major works in world literature and is furthermore written in a lucid style that makes it attractive to the reader interested in philosophy, cultural theory and literature. Jørgen Veisland in Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature 文学跨学科研究 , Vol. 3, No. 3 September 2019, p. 558.
Read the entire review here.
Fosse in support of Handke
In these times when literature is sold cheaply and those who raise the banner of arts as a distinct domain are in short supply it is refreshing to review a statement made by the highly acclaimed Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse on the work of Peter Handke.
Some context: Handke was recently awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature along with Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. The committee decided to give out two awards this time after a one-year hiatus. A debacle concerning some prominent members of the committee had led to the prize not being awarded in 2018. It would be logical to think, then, that previous conflicts have now been assigned to the past. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Recently two more committee members announced their resignation, citing a disagreement over awarding the prize to Handke.
Controversies regarding Handke’s work is nothing new. A few years ago he was awarded a different prize, the Ibsen Award for outstanding achievements in dramatic writing. On arriving in Norway to collect the prize, Handke was met by around 200 protesters who claimed he was a fascist, and in denial of the Holocaust.
When freedom of speech is increasingly encroached upon; when artists who sympathise with those brutally crushed by Western military powers are rendered as demons; and when a writer who demonstrates his affection for his mother’s homeland is haunted as if he were a war criminal, it is refreshing to see a literary luminary such as Jon Fosse come to Peter Handke’s defense. In an interview with the literary magazine Vinduet in 2014 Fosse was asked what his opinions were of giving the Ibsen Award to Handke. These were his thoughts:
Did Peter Handke deserve the 2014 Ibsen Award?
I fully support giving the Ibsen Award, as the prize has become known by now, to Peter Handke. He deserves it, not as a person, or as a political speaker and essayist, but as the author Peter Handke, the one who, as far as I can tell, is possibly our most significant living author, all things considered, that is to say if we include prose and drama and essays, i.e., the entire authorship. I have been asked several times who I believe deserves the Nobel Prize in Literature, and every time I have given the answer Peter Handke.
Subsequently, it is in my view as misguided to ground an award for aesthetic activity in political motivations, for instance in order to promote the position of women in society, as it is to ground a refusal to give such an award in political motivations. To pass over Peter Handke when this prize was awarded would have been a political act, or at least a political decision. Furthermore, there were others who had misgivings when NATO’s bombs descended onto Serbia, such as the Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Lastly, when Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature she remarked that it should have been given to Peter Handke; she won simply for being a woman.
It is true that a remarkable amount of authors have had fairly extreme political sympathies. In many cases it is as if a sovereign aesthetics is extended into the political domain; in any case we see an aestheticisation of the political. This tendency is particularly apparent in the case of Peter Handke. In his books the Slavic, and particularly what was once referred to as Yugoslavia, features as a dream world of sorts, where aesthetic considerations governed at the expense of the brutal capitalism he believed to see in the West. Notice how he describes his love for the Slavic tongues: you need go no further than Wunschloses Unglück (A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, 1972). It tells the story of his mother’s suicide; she was a Slovenian, living in the Austrian village where Handke himself grew up. In this text we can trace this characteristic trait of his aesthetics.
What political responsibilities rest on authors?
I am against turning the political into an aesthetic domain; it may for instance lead to a celebration of rules who have committed genocide, such as Pol Pot, or Mao, or Stalin, or Hitler, or Mussolini. And yet I cannot hold the view that the author of On Overgrown Paths did not deserve his Nobel Prize. Furthermore, I cannot deny that Dag Solstad is the greatest living author in Norway; and I can clearly not let these considerations serve as the ground for an attack on Øyvind Berg because of his translations of the anti-Semite Ezra Pound’s texts into Norwegian, even if the Swedish Academy believed that they were unable to award Pound a Nobel Prize for this reason. Finally, it is difficult to deny Céline any literary qualities on the grounds of his opinions.
In the same manner as I am against subordinating politics to aesthetic considerations, I am against politicizing aesthetics. Brecht wrote many good texts, but it is always when an imposed political frame loosens its grip that his talent lifts us up, such as in his poetry, or in lyrical passages in his [dramatic] works. In any case, I have little regard for the political literature of the 1970s in Norway, where mountains were dressed up with weapons.
Yet, ever since my debut in 1983, I have frequently been asked whether I write politically, which, more often than not, implies that I should do so. I have time and again wondered what the point of such a question might be, and I have arrived at the conclusion that there must be something immoral about me, since I don’t commit to political writing, whatever that might mean. I have always said the same thing: I do not write politically. However, the aesthetic and the ethical domains are connected, as for instance Wittgenstein has noted; and embarking from the ethical dimension of literature it is also possible to arrive at politics, if one pleases. And from such a perspective it is clear that there is something quite different from a praise of genocide that lies at the core of Peter Handke’s aesthetic programme. Similarly, there is no praise of Nazism in Knut Hamsun’s aesthetics. In both these cases we should take the contrary view.
(Translated excerpt from “Enquête: Peter Handke og Ibsenprisen,” published in the literary magazine Vinduet, 17 September 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2019, from https://www.vinduet.no/enquete/)
Perversion’s Beyond on LacanOnline.com
It’s always nice to get a mention by a respected site. Owen Hewitson spreads the word at LacanOnline.com. Thank you, Owen!
Get Perversion’s Beyond from Amazon.com.
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We teach Norwegian and English from beginner to advanced levels online and in person (Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk). Get in touch for a quote! Send an email
Perversion’s Beyond is out
Perversion of justice, sexual perversion, perversion of tradition… The pervert has become the figure that most essentially captures what it means to live in our age. Perversion’s Beyond advocates a stricter definition of the pervert than Freud’s well-known formulation: it suggests that we should adopt the pervert as a homeostatic device. Innovation today entails perversion. Perversion’s Beyond is out on Atropos Press. Get it here from Amazon.com.
Said about Rock Philosophy (Vernon Press, 2018):
I find myself intrigued on multiple levels. When I read the words Rock Philosophy, the first thing that came to mind was the Stones, rock ‘n roll, and Queen. […] I was startled by Rock Philosophy and its reference to another, more actually stony form of rock. Sentient stones may seem an impossibility from a Western perspective that categorically separate Creator and Creation, Mind and Matter. However, consciousness appears and disappears as part of the ongoing, sometimes turbulent, sometimes placid, flows of which the world is made. John McCreery, Visiting Professor, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
More information and to order Rock Philosophy: https://vernonpress.com/book/770
Said about dressage and illusio (SPS, 2016):
… enters directly into current philosophical and social scientific questions regarding sport – nation – body, and anchors the debate in strong, theoretical currents … rich in perspective and original analysis. Sigmund Loland, Professor, Norwegian University College of Elite Sports
More information and to order dressage and illusio: https://dressageandillusio. wordpress.com/.
We have redesigned our Ereignis Center web pages: our new presentation includes a library of resources, a gallery, and a faculty roster. It’s been designed to be mobile friendly. See https://ereignis.no/
~~ Ereignis: taking you to who you are ~~
CfP Inscriptions: Outsourced! Mediatisation and rivalry
Inscriptions, a #journal of contemporary thinking on #philosophy, #psychoanalysis and #art, invites contributions to our upcoming issue Outsourced! #mediatisation and #rivalry. We are looking for well-crafted and skillfully written scholarly #essays and #interviews, #reviews, short interventions, and opinion pieces that engage our mandate and the theme of this issue. Full announcement at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ #interpassivity
Sports make us see our bodies differently
dressage and illusio, my study of how perceptions of our body is shaped through sports in school and in the mass media, is still available (for example from Amazon). Professor Sigmund Loland, a major voice in international sports philosophy, commented that this book “enters directly into current philosophical and social scientific questions regarding sport – nation – body, and anchors the debate in strong, theoretical currents. [It is] rich in perspective and original analysis.” Read more.
On Jon Fosse
Jon Fosse (1959-) is translated from his native Norwegian (he writes in nynorsk), to more than 40 languages. He is widely acclaimed as a pivotal voice in contemporary fiction. Since his debut with the novel Raudt, svart [Red, Black] in 1983, Fosse has published many novels, poetry, essays, children’s stories, and plays. It is perhaps as dramatist he is most widely known internationally.
His plays include Og aldri skal vi skiljast [And we’ll never part] (1993), Nokon kjem til å komme [Someone will arrive] (1996), and more than 30 other texts. Fosse became internationally recognised as dramatist with French director Claude Régy’s staging of Someone Will Arrive in Nanterre in 1999. The following year the Berlin theatre Schaubühne with their director Thomas Ostermeier performed Namnet [The Name] at the Salzburg Theatre Festival, ensuring Fosse’s reputation as one our age’s most important playwrights.
Fosse holds a Master of Arts (cand.philol.) in Comparative Literature from the University of Bergen, Norway, an institution which has since awarded him an Honourary Doctorate. He has won a long series of awards, such as the International Ibsen Award (2010), Pope Benedict XVI’s honourary medal (2009), and the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Award (2007). He is a Commandor in the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, and was made a Knight in France’s National Order of Merit in 2007. In 2015 he won the prestigious Nordic Council’s Literary Award for the trilogy Andvake [Insomnia], Olavs draumar [Olav’s Dreams], and Kveldsvævd [Evening Web].
In 2011, as Norway’s Poet Laureate, Jon Fosse moved in to the official Honourary Residence for artists, after it’s previous occupier, the cherished and innovative composer Arne Nordheim had passed away. This dwelling is situated on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Oslo, and was first owned by the poet Henrik Wergeland in the early 19th Century. In recognition of this honour Fosse crafted a series of poems that take Wergeland’s lyrical treasure as their starting point;“Two angels” and “It is cramped under the arch of heaven” are from this collection (2016).
Fosse is married, and has five children. Today he lives in Oslo, Bergen, and Hainburg, Austria.
Translation of two poems by Fosse from the collection Poesiar [Lyrics], 2016.
Watch: talk on Hamsun and psychoanalysis
Here is a video taped talk on Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun’s On Overgrown Path and his relation to psychoanalysis. After the war Hamsun was accused of treason and subjected to involuntary psychiatric examination. The humiliation he experienced has led some scholars to argue that Hamsun was mistreated at the hands of his fellow Norwegians. This talk puts forward the perspective that not only was it reasonable to investigate Hamsun’s sanity; his ongoing relation to the burgeoning science of psychoanalysis enabled him to write several works of art that have since become regarded as literary classics. This is a taped version of a talk given at the Centre for Scandinavian Studies’ Conference in Lund, Sweden, on 17 May, 2019. The video is approx. 25 minutes.
Rock Philosophy in paperback
Rock Philosophy: meditations on art and desire is now in paperback with 30% discount. Order before June 8, 2019, with coupon code VEPNFTCEA30 from https://vernonpress.com/book/770
Mackie, the subject of philosophy
Another graduate from the Lit Hum programme at Oxford, J.L. Mackie turned celebrity philosopher on his claim that there can be no objective foundation to moral values:
Meticulous, courteous, industrious, with a degree of devotion to duty striking in one who held that moral values lack any objective foundation, [J.L. Mackie] was universally admired as an outstandingly capable and committed philosopher’s philosopher. An undoubtedly apocryphal anecdote captures his character: while Alasdair Maclntyre, P. F. Strawson, and Mackie were Fellows together at University College, the authorities circulated a memorandum asking all dons to keep a record for a week of the proportions of their working hours spent on research, teaching, and administration. Maclntyre sent back a blistering missive instructing them not to waste his time. Strawson looked at the form, wrote ‘One third, one third, one third’, and went back to what he was doing. J. L. Mackie went out and bought a stop watch.
From Graham Oppy and N. N. Trakakis (eds), A Companion to Philosophy in Australia & New Zealand.
New issue of Inscriptions: the global unconscious
Inscriptions is out with volume 2, n1 (2019), on “The global unconscious: art, technology, science.” Featuring articles in the traditions of Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, this issue interrogates approaches to the term unconscious in contexts such as petroleum-driven culture, the 9/11 memorial in New York, the relation between art and society on the work of Bjarne Melgaard, and our current era of a global internet and social media culture. We also feature art by Stefan Chazbijewicz, a filmmaker, poet and visual artist based in Poland, who seeks to establish a mystic space of what he refers to as “salvaged reality” in his work.
Inscriptions is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes contemporary thinking on art, philosophy and psycho-analysis. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The arrival of Rock Philosophy
It’s here. Hardbound. Conceived from Belgrade to Gdynia, published in Delaware, printed in Milton Keynes. And now here. Delivered by courier. Artists strive for freedom; philosophy subordinates art to reason and tradition. Between them stands the Rock: our rock, the planet itself. Get a 24% discount on Rock Philosophy by using code CFC159723D56 on checkout at https://vernonpress.com/book/494
CfP: The global unconscious: art, technology, science
Inscriptions, a journal of contemporary thinking on art, philosophy, and psycho-analysis, invites contributions to our upcoming issue on the global unconscious. We are looking for well-crafted and skilfully written scholarly essays and art projects (images, videos, presentations) that engage our mandate and the theme of this issue.
Sigmund Freud’s unconscious is still a debated concept. From flat-out rejections to head-on acceptance and use in scholarly and therapeutic practice the unconscious has become the very lynchpin of the validity of psycho-analysis. It has been subject to debate from its inception with Freud’s lecture to the Psychiatric and Neurologic Association in Vienna in 1896 when Freud’s elder colleagues referred to his findings as constituting a “scientific fairy tale.” In his lecture Freud put forward his infamous “seduction theory,” according to which female patients suffered from actual or psychic recollections of their fathers seducing them. It was the repression of these alleged experiences that laid the foundation of the unconscious, and when the scientific community rejected the theory of seduction how would it be possible for Freud to defend his idea of the unconscious?
And yet, that is precisely what he did. Already the next year Freud admitted that he no longer trusted the veracity of his patients’ claims and their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. However, the answer to his conundrum was not far away. At a meeting with Ernest Jones at the Bellevue Restaurant in Vienna in 1895, one year prior to the Vienna conference, Freud had declared that he had found out how to unlock the secrets of dreams. The solution to Freud’s situation was to acknowledge that his patients’ experiences of seduction were expressions of the unconscious. While accepting their stories as sincere, this enabled Freud to continue his analysis, albeit on a different level. It was no longer a matter of protecting these young women from physically abusive fathers, but of trying to decipher their dream-works.
The unconscious has played a key part in the unfolding drama of psycho-analysis. The split between Freud and his pupil Carl Gustav Jung was to some extent grounded in a difference with regard to how they approached the unconscious. While Freud claimed for psycho-analysis the ability to uncover feelings, memories and desires that exist beyond our conscious awareness, Jung wanted to expand the notion to include archetypical, or inherited, elements. With the migration of psycho-analysis first to America and then to claim for itself a global reach the ruptures in the unconscious were no longer containable at a personal and local level: we are now under the spell of a global unconscious. The most powerful refutation of the unconscious arrived with the scientific demand for verification: since theories of the unconscious are as of yet not empirically falsifiable they cannot be considered properties of science, and therefore not admissible to scientific enquiry, it is claimed. What is at stake, finally, is the scientific status of psycho-analysis itself.
For the upcoming issue of Inscriptions we seek papers that contextualise the unconscious in the domains of art, technology and science. Key questions that are relevant include:
- How are artworks and their meaning shaped by our unconscious?
- How are unconscious elements given expression in art and technology?
- In what ways does it make sense to speak of a global unconscious in art, technology and science?
- Deadline for proposals: 15 September 2018
- Deadline for full manuscripts: 15 October 2018
Academic essays should be 3,000 to 4,500 words. We also seek scholarship in the form of interviews, reviews, short interventions, disputations and rebuffals, and in these cases we are open to shorter texts. Inscriptions adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes and bibliography). For other instructions, please see our website. We encourage potential authors to submit proposals for review prior to their writing/submitting entire full-length manuscripts. Include title, proposal (150 words), short biography, and institutional affiliation in your preliminary submission. All academic submissions will undergo double-blind peer review.
We also accept proposal for art projects (images, videos, presentation, etc.) to be curated by our external Guest Editor (TBA).
Submit proposals and art projects through our online platform at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ by 15 September 2018.
New book with free download: Rock Philosophy
It is time to happily announce the publication of Rock Philosophy: meditations on art and desire on Vernon Press. It was written largely in Belgrade and Gdynia two years ago, and after some very favourable reviews it has now finally been made available to the general public. The theme of the book is art’s relation to philosophy and reason; it is an attempt to connect reason with desire and the arts to show how creativity can bring us closer to the truth.
The artistic quest for freedom stands in stark contrast to philosophy’s call to subordinate art to reason and tradition. The struggle between them has culminated in artistic attempts to subsume philosophical matters within the domain of art. One central question is what the consequences will be of a final dissolution of the boundary between the two domains: will all that remains of the artwork be an abstract howl of the rock – our rock, the planet – itself?
The book comes complete with a Manifesto to Rock Philosophy. That manifesto and the book’s Introduction can be downloaded for free from the publisher’s website. Philosophy books generally stand at some distance to the mainstream, and prices tend to reflect that fact. However, by ordering directly from the publisher you receive a 24% discount (that’s almost a quarter of the retail price) if you use the code CFC159723D56 on checkout. Find it on https://vernonpress.com/book/494. It is also available from Amazon.
If you like the book and would like to review it there is a page for it on Goodreads where any and all comments are received with thanks.
Kissinger, 95, on AI: wisdom is overwhelmed
Our new world order is one in which “information threatens to overwhelm wisdom”: Henry Kissinger has certainly made his mark on our contemporary world, having advised Nixon and masterminded the end of the Cold War. Now Kissinger’s concern is Artificial Intelligence. In an article in The Atlantic Kissinger makes some remarks about a potential divergence between hyperactivity in the social media and art:
Inundated via social media with the opinions of multitudes, users are diverted from introspection; in truth many technophiles use the internet to avoid the solitude they dread. All of these pressures weaken the fortitude required to develop and sustain convictions that can be implemented only by traveling a lonely road, which is the essence of creativity.
In the end, as a man of Kissinger’s wit and intelligence would, he cannot accept a simple adoption of the term Artificial Intelligence. It could be a misnomer, he says, because while
these machines can solve complex, seemingly abstract problems that had previously yielded only to human cognition[,] what they do uniquely is not thinking as heretofore conceived and experienced. Rather, it is unprecedented memorization and computation. Because of its inherent superiority in these fields, AI is likely to win any game assigned to it. But for our purposes as humans, the games are not only about winning; they are about thinking. By treating a mathematical process as if it were a thought process, and either trying to mimic that process ourselves or merely accepting the results, we are in danger of losing the capacity that has been the essence of human cognition.
A statesman, a scientist, a thinker: Henry Kissinger.
Editorial on Schirmacher
Our first edition of Inscriptions is out. The issue is chiefly concerned with the technophilosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
In the philosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher the term medium should be taken quite literally. His is first and foremost a philosophy of the modern mass media and it should be approached as an attempt to understand how a host of novel communicative technologies work in our lives. His notion of Homo generator conceptualises our engagement with a wealth of contemporary channels of communication. To Schirmacher Homo generator is a figure who allows the media to generate entire life worlds, and in this precise sense it is a logic that conforms to Žižek’s idea of interpassivity: our relatively passive complicity in mass mediation allows the mediated world to actively conjure truth, being and an ethical stance in our place. In a word our world and our ethical being is outsourced: we find anchorage in mediated images and it is no longer required of us that we shoulder our being-in-the-world ourselves, as this is a work taken over and actively regenerated by our mediatised figure.
If there is any remnant of Plato in phenomenology after Heidegger it is as a form of consolation. While Plato absorbed the defeat of his city with a call to elevate the philosophers to governors of the state on the grounds that it was the current rulers’ inability to see the truth that had led to Athen’s loss, Schirmacher extends Heidegger’s logic of care to philosophy itself. It is no longer required that the philosopher shoulder the burden of political governance, since the figure of the governor in either case is mediatised and thus returns to us as an image in the media. The philosopher can relax and meditate: we can remain calm and take up a truly Epicurean attitude. Life is there to be lived and finding a way to live a life that is pleasing is part of our constitution in the world.
Inscriptions needs subscribers to our print edition. Please ask your university library to order a subscription from our website, or consider subscribing yourself. Happy reading!
Wolfgang Schirmacher on Ereignis
Professor Wolfgang Schirmacher (New School for Social Research, European Graduate School) will be coming to the 2018 Ereignis Seminar in scenic Lofoten, Norway, in October to speak on the event. Will you come?
Ereignis Retreat 2018
Mike Figgis, yoga, coaching: nine days of true freedom and the art of living at an exceptional resort in scenic Norway 20 to 28 October. Sign up at ereignis.no/
When the family historian leaves: Per Edfeldt (1939- 2018)
We all have to go in the end. Nevertheless when someone close to us departs it leaves a gap and a trace. Who was this person who left us last night?
Our family historian, Per Edfeldt (1939-2018), was also, and more importantly, a local historian, with a string of short, accessible books on record, including A Short Local History of Moss for School Use (publ. 1978; a widely read introduction to local history, drawing a vast canvas, and yet accessible and a fun read), Moss Labour Party: 75/100 Years (publ. 1980 and 2005; dedicated to an organisation close to his heart), Joys of Skiing: Moss Ski Club through 75 Years (publ. 2003), the celebrated Historical Events in Moss of 1814 (publ. 2004; an account of the way Moss made its mark on the country’s struggle for independence: it was in Per’s home town that the then-Norwegian king, Christian Fredrik, signed an accord with the invading Swedish forces, effectively abdicating and leaving Norway under Swedish jurisdiction: however, as Per noted, Christian Fredrik also made sure that Norway retained its constitution and some independence to our newly formed national assembly), and lastly A Source of Joy: Moss Labour Choir through 110 Years (publ. 2005).
As the list indicates, Per had many and varied interests. In addition to being a deputy principal at a local school, he became a member of the local government in the 1970s, and held many posts for voluntary organisations in the realms of sports, culture and history. He was crucial in shaping our present image of this town. In the 1980s and 1990s he chaired the committee that organised the writing of the important three volume history of Moss authored by noted historian Nils Johan Ringdal.
In 2003 Per received the Municipal Prize for Culture, and in 2006 the cherished Mossiana Prize.
When we last met he informed that he hadn’t stopped writing historical accounts. However, he had resorted to authoring the texts that are inscribed onto the plaques that we find on certain walls of prominent buildings in this town!
Most important for those who were close to Per is it that he was our family historian. His father was one of three brothers born to an immigrant from Sweden, an engineer with special skills in making and operating the kinds of machinery necessary to run the glass factory that had been opened in Moss. His father became a dedicated politician for the Labour party, and Per followed in his father’s tracks.
How do we know about our Swedish roots, the way the family spread out through the Scandinavian peninsula, and how voluntary work and professional interests converge to shape our present image of ourselves?
A large part of the answer can be found in Per’s legacy: his writing, his practice, his personality.
Go in peace.
New poem by Tomas Tranströmer in translation
The creature with cemented eyes who wants to be hurled current-wise into the waterfall throws himself forward, without a shiver, in a furious hunger for simplicity.
Read “Along the river” by Tomas Tranströmer and other poems in translation here.
CfP Inscriptions 1, n1
In cooperation with our publisher Tankebanen forlag we are launching Inscriptions, a new peer-reviewed journal dedicated to art, philosophy and psycho-analysis. We welcome academic essays, literary fiction, interviews, reviews and other texts that are well-crafted and skilfully written and that engage our mandate and the theme of the present issue. For more information, visit our website.
On Melgaard and Munch at MECCSA 2018, London
Upcoming presentation: The 2018 MECCSA Conference at the School of Arts & Creative Industries, London South Bank University tomorrow with a talk on Norwegian-Australian artist Bjarne Melgaard and his complex relationship to Norway’s iconic painter Edward Munch. Philosophy, psycho-analysis, art.
Video essays on Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer and the insufficiency of modesty: New video essay on the times and opinions of Arthur Schopenhauer. After 17 years of silence Schopenhauer decided to participate in a competition to answer the question Can man’s free will be proven from his self-consciousness? He held that our character provides a sufficient explanation of our acts. This video essay gives context to a letter written by Schopenhauer to the Royal Norwegian Academy of Science in 1839. For more information visit our website. Viewing time: 6 mins.
New publication: Bergman on alienation and creativity
An article was recently published in Appraisal, the journal of the British Personalist Forum, on two films by Ingmar Bergman with questions of anxiety, alienation, and creativity. When the main character of Hour of the Wolf pursues his art at the expense of his romantic relationship is his calling a liberating or demonic force? More: British Personalist Forum’s website.
Presencing the writer: Jon Fosse and ecstatic communion
An essay discussing Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse’s notion of the immanent writer in relation to film (A Clockwork Orange and Naked) was recently published by Vernon Press in a collection edited by Simon Smith and Anna Castriota: Looking at the Sun: New Writings in Modern Personalism. Get a 10% discount on the volume by using code 10PCAGNODH on checkout from the publisher’s website.
Video essays on Badiou and Nietzsche
We have now posted these two video essays on the Ereignis web-site:
To Alain Badiou salvation and redemption are meaningful terms to us even today. Badiou reads Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger to throw light on salvation as an event that allows reality to enter into our world.
Friedrich Nietzsche was against democracy and against egalitarianism, which is the view that people are in some sense equal. How we should read Nietzsche in an age when egalitarianism is taken for granted?
Praise for dressage and illusio
Professor Sigmund Loland, former principal of Norway’s Elite sports college, has praised the book dressage and illusio: sport, nation and the new global body:
… enters directly into current philosophical and social scientific questions regarding sport – nation – body, and anchors the debate in strong, theoretical currents … rich in perspective and original analysis.
The book is available from amazon.com. More information here.
More stuff and poems here...
Follow this link to get to the blog that predated this site. There you’ll find summaries and links to essays, poems, short snippets on sundry philosophic topics, movies, language, and so on. Read about Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Spinoza, Foucault, Berkeley, Bourdieu, Descartes; read a poem by Sonnevi in translation. Plus video links, original texts, you name it. See you there!
Op-ed piece on video refereeing in football (Norwegian)
This essay on video refereeing in football was published by the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet 21 July in Norwegian.
Everything you need to know about sport in the global media
New book by Torgeir Fjeld out on Scholars’ Press. Among the key questions raised in this book are:
- Has globalization come to an end or are we forever shaped by the centrifugal forces that bind us ever closer together?
- Does nationalism break us apart or give us the power to hold out against attempts to deprive us of our singularity?
Nationalism and globalization shape the way we consider our bodies as mediatized by sport. Pierre Bourdieu claimed that mass-mediated spectacles render us passive. This book-length study of sports in schools and in the global media asks if Bourdieu’s view was too simplistic. Do not also sports enable us to imagine ourselves in new ways?
An in-depth study of current debates in media studies, philosophy and sports, this volume is suitable for students, scholars and everyone engaged in contemporary issues that reach beyond the commonplaces of everyday chatter. Available now from amazon.com. More information about the book here.
Video lecture on Kierkegaard and Agamben
This video is a recording of a paper presented at a conference dvoted to Søren Kierkegaard at the University of Gdansk, Poland, in April 2013. The paper discusses the notion of leaps that we find in Kierkegaard and makes links to Pascal and the recent work of Giorgio Agamben on power. The key question is how it is that we find ourselves unable to act meaningfully in the present conjuncture.
Some recent publications
“Out of time, or Anderson’s national temporality revisited” in Networking Knowledges, vol. 9, no. 1, 2016.
This peer-reveiwed paper discusses, among other things, the notion of Messianic time (Walter Benjamin), which is to be understood as a temporality where the moment of redemption is an ever-present potentiality. First, it can be considered as a psychological time, or a mind time, that is governed by traumatic encounters. This sense of time is rendered as a strictly logical time in the work of Jacques Lacan. Second, it is a time of grace, in the sense that it is governed by necessity. Blaise Pascal and the Jansenists went to great length to refute the dominant notion of grace as sufficient. If there is an instance that determines events, then the means by which this instance governs can only be a necessary cause. Finally, the work of Benedict Anderson, and particularly a later article in his corpus, is reconsidered. Here, Anderson argues that the effects of globalization have to some extent rendered the temporal linearity of nationalism obsolete. It is therefore apt to consider what a time after nationalism will be like.
“Clandestine Acclaim: how spectacles conceal our praise of power” in Oxford Left Review, no. 14, 2015.
This article investigates how it is that we tend to settle for negative liberties (liberation from obstructions, hindrances or impediments to our desires) even though we are fully aware of the limitations of such freedoms, and how a peculiar technique of governance – what we shall refer to as clandestine or hidden acclaim – underpins an emergent form of social domination, so-called ‘acclamative capitalism’.
“National, Authentic, Excessive: toward a globalized body of sports” in Altitude, 2014.
In this peer-reviewed essay, the implication of Pierre Bourdieu’s insight that sports are ways of knowing with the body that are to a large extent taught silently, transferred from the teacher to body of students, often without ever reaching the level of verbal utterances is under scrutiny. The body produced through the Physical Education curriculum is increasingly enmeshed in what Pierre Bourdieu referred as the “cult of the natural and authentic.” Such a body enables a more autonomous cultural field of sport compared to nationalism’s epic body, since it no longer places nations in a necessarily antagonistic relation to each other. Instead, the impure and unnatural pose as new opponents of the sporting body. Sports increasingly function to signify excessive and ineffable aspects of our existence. Bourdieu’s notion of illusio shows how sport participants can arrive at this understanding through an experience of the seductive character of sports.
“Spectacular sports as desire engine” in International Journal of Zizek Studies (IJZS), ISSN 1751-8229, Vol. 3, No 3., 2009.
In this essay, the notion of acephalic knowledge is discussed as a possible point from which to launch ideological critique. Acephalic knowledge is situated in a body that is without head and without heart, i.e. it is a kind of knowledge that is prior to reason and emotion. As Slavoj Žižek states, it provides a «thou art that», or a kind of recognition that the subject cannot but accept since it articulates the very kernel of the subject’s being. When we are stripped of our emotional and intellectual defenses – when we are placed in a state of subjective destitution – we are in a position to recognize this kind of knowledge. Here we ask if mass mediated sports can provide an experience of such subjective destitution.
Schopenhauer is well known for his assertion that what disappears with our demise is the most vulgar and uninteresting part of our existence: in other words, when we die our individuality goes away. That is not to say that everything that is us disappears with our final day of light. In the essay on “Immortality: a dialogue,” Schopenhauer puts it thus:
As far as you are an individual, death will be the end of you. But your individuality is not your true and inmost being: it is only the outward manifestation of it. It is not the thing-in-itself, but only the phenomenon presented in the form of time; and therefore with a beginning and an end. But your real being knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end, nor yet the limits of any given individual. It is everywhere present in every individual; and no individual can exist apart from it. So when death comes, on the one hand you are annihilated as an individual; on the other, you are and remain everything. (p.405 in T. Bailey Saunder’s translation)
What is less trumpeted is that Schopenhauer should have drawn some of his ideas from his colleague Spinoza, who wrote some 200 years earlier. Spinoza held that there really is only one substance – God – and everything else is part of this single substance. As Bertrand Russell noted in his History of Western Philosophy, Spinoza made this claim in distinction to Descartes, who had made a clear separation between mind – which is the element that allows us to connect with God – and matter, our physical, machine-like substance. What sets us apart from the determinism of matter was to Descartes our ability to perceive ideas, or, in his famous dictum, our ability to think: I think therefore I am.
Russell notes in no uncertain terms that Spinoza would take exception from this view: God is not only omnipotent, but is in fact everything. Thought and extension are attributes of this single substance, and, subsequently,
Individual souls and separate pieces of matter are, for Spinoza, adjectival; they are not things, but merely aspects of the divine Being. There can be no such personal immortality as Christians believe in, but only that impersonal sort that consists in becoming more and more one with God. (p. 571)
What is crucial is to perceive the way in which Spinoza arrived at a conclusion remarkably similar to Schopenhauer’s well-known rejection of individual immortality some centuries later: individuality is nothing but an aspect of our “true and inmost being,” and this being is timeless.
It follows that, for Spinoza, logical necessity is not limited to the material domain (as noted in this blog post): “Everything that happens is a manifestation of God’s inscrutable nature, and it is logically impossible that events should be other than they are” (ibid.).
Our path to contentedness? To find peace in the wisdom of knowing that things are the way they are by necessity, and that they could not be otherwise.
There’s two things that’s exactly right and one thing that’s possibly more questionable about the private language argument posed by Edmund Gordon in his article “Biography in the Twitter age” posted on The Times Literary Supplement on November 14, 2016. Let’s first recount briefly what Wittgenstein – UK’s philosopher of language and logic – said about private languages (see also the post here).
Essentially, Wittgenstein held that the notion that it is possible to generate a language that is truly private is absurd. For instance, in §241 of Philosophical Investigations he notes that,
So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false?—It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.
While contract theory would have it that we freely enter into agreements with each other with regard to what words mean, what is true, how the world is put together, and so on, Wittgenstein here clearly takes exception from such an approach. Rather, it is not so much perceptions of the world that are true or not, but how those perceptions are uttered. In other words, truth is a characteristic of language, and agreement is achieved in language. And yet, the parties are not private entities, since their agreements are achieved not on the level of voluntary contract, but as a constellation of forms of life.
Further, in §246, he asks
In what sense are my sensations private? —Well, only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it.—In one way this is wrong, and in another nonsense. If we are using the word “to know” as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?), then other people very often know when I am in pain.
Here, Wittgenstein underlines the extent to which language is a requirement for perception. If what we are perceiving is someone else’s emotion, then we are guessing or inferring in so far as we do not have spoken affirmation to rely on. If W sees someone with a pained expression, he cannot be certain that this person is indeed in pain until it is verbally confirmed, in the view proposed in §246.
Can W know it himself, in a way that only he knows? What Wittgenstein shows in the so-called Private Language argument is that such a question implies something else than simply whether someone hides or does not communicate his thoughts. In order to speak of a language that is private it would be necessary to posit an entire vocabulary, sets of grammatical rules, etc., that would be known only to the person whose language it was the property.
What if W sought to make a language of his own by each time he had a particular emotion writing down the letter S? Wittgenstein counters this suggestion by noting how it would not be possible to affirm – even to oneself – that it was precisely the same emotion W encountered, so that the letter S could come to signify any number of different feelings.
Now, to examine more closely the argument proposed by Gordon regarding autobiography in the Twitter age, we should keep in mind Wittgenstein’s complex approach to the notion of private. Let’s first look at two senses in which Gordon is right:
1. The private has usurped the public
In his survey of the technological impact on the genre of autobiography, Gordon notes that
Among the main qualities and duties of contemporary biography is the way it measures the distance between a subject’s public and private selves – and if people don’t regularly take the measure of themselves in writing any more, that may no longer be possible.
What Gordon surely means here is that as we post more on Twitter and such like, we conceivably write less for ourselves, i.e., in private diaries, journals, etc., so that the entirety of our written production becomes immediately public. It’s an apt observation, and it is further supported by Gordon’s point that
If we’re always performing for an external audience, then the distance between our private and public selves will surely shrink.
We should remind ourselves of two kinds of historical arguments regarding the distinction between the public and the private spheres here, both of which render Gordon’s point as correct. Hannah Arendt noted that what we are experiencing today is the usurpation of the private domain of the public domain, so that the public arena is increasingly approached as if it was an extension of our household. In this view, the distinction between private and public is obsolete, and anything that happens “at home” immediately occurs in public. The recent proliferation of questions regarding private photos, sharing of information that doesn’t really belong to the public on the internet, and so on, belong to this category. Have we forgotten that what we post on the internet no longer belongs to the private sphere?
2. The public has usurped the private
A second sense in which Gordon is right is rendered by recounting the recent politically motivated research into what goes on in the household under the rubric “the private is public.” In this view, it is an oppressive order that maintains the distinction between private and public, and – as the argument goes – it is in the interest of the oppressed to abolish the distinction. There is nothing that goes on in the household that shouldn’t immediately be considered public acts. According to this kind of action research – politically motivated scholarship that seeks to change the order of the world – it is a good thing that, as Gordon notes, “the distance between our private and public selves” have shrunk. In this manner, it will be more challenging for the dominant and oppressive keepers of the household to keep their acts from public view.
The ideal invention here would be the contraption authored by Eric Blair in his momentous 1949 novel, where it is no longer the private citizens who watch television, but the television who observes the private citizens. Nothing – in this rendition of the world – remains private.
3. Is there a truly private language?
Now, let’s finally consider one sense Gordon’s view is a bit more challenging. In order to understand this sense, it is necessary to review the remarks on Wittgenstein above. Given that W asserts how we cannot arrive at a truly private language, it is necessary to make such a language in the presence of some instance that in some way is external to us. Let’s call this instance the Law-Issuing Instance. We can conceivably construct a language under the aegis of such an instance, debating with ourselves – our Law-Issuing Instance – whether or not we have truly encountered that same emotion as when we previously identified a feeling with the inscription of the letter S. However – and this is the crucial point – if this were the case, we would not be truly alone, i.e., in the private, when we made up the language.
In fact, would not the true horror scenario be a situation where we would be bereaved of our Law-Issuing Instance? It is such a horror that is suggested – and we believe wrongly – by Gordon’s notion of an evaporation of the boundary between private and public. It is in this sense it is possible to say that there never really was a private writing situation, since each entry in a diary or journal was always accompanied by an instance that – however made up by our selves – remains external to us. The crucial point is that this notion of writing in the presence of an Other does not entail the eradication of the private sphere. It simply means that we are never truly alone: there is always someone there that, as George Berkeley held it, watches over us.
After the Prince was torn away in tragic circumstances
Our debt to him could only be settled by uncovering the cause
In a spectral apparition the Prince said:
“Find out the reason for the tragedy,
and you will know your true friends.”
Only by gathering evidence could we put him to rest
And the evidence was written on his body.
Dressage and illusio
What should we make of the terms dressage and illusio in the context of sports?
Dressage is a way to make bodies submit, to domesticate and somatise, so that they can be governed and mastered. In sport dressage takes place silently: the skills required for practical mastery are often transmitted without words, and there is a knowledge of sport that never reaches the level of conscious awareness. This is why dressage entails a form of belief: through social orchestration we are led to accept what we would otherwise have considered ill-founded, since, as Pierre Bourdieu noted, “belief is what the body concedes even when the mind says no.”
The term illusio has three senses. First, it describes how participants are seduced as they get involved in the game. It is a necessary component in the acquisition of mastery: the required immersion in the game seduces the player to forget that it’s “only a game,” and that, as a game, it always holds within itself the possibility of referring to something else. The capacity of sports to pose analogous relations to other forms of activity is what is brought out through the aristocratic disposition of disinterest – of not becoming too involved. The amateur ideal highlighted such relations, and regarded sports primarily as a physical art-for-art’s sake. The demise of amateurism and the attendant rise of sports as spectacles deeply affects our potentiality to unmask the illusio of physical activity.
Second, illusio indicates the effects of a society that is orchestrated through mass mediated spectacles. It is in this sense that we can say that major sports events provide fantasies that serve to regulate desire on the level of populations. It is the ritual character of sports that seduces us to invest a libidinal energy that can be garnered in the service of governance.
In the third sense, illusio shows the distinction between everyday and scientific interpretations of spectacles. To Bourdieu, illusio “directs the gaze toward the apparent producer” –- painter, composer, writer, or sports performer –- “and prevents us asking who created this ‘creator’ and the magic power of transubstantiation with which the ‘creator’ is endowed.” This is how audiences are kept in a state of awe by spectacular sports: through the effects of illusio fans are given to ascribe supernatural powers to characters they know only from mediatised events, and it is this mechanism that prevent viewers from uncovering the illusion and objectifying the fantasmatic.
The study Dressage and illusio: sport, nation and the new global body enquires into the ways nationalism and the forces of globalisation govern us through sport. It is presently available through amazon.com (http://amzn.to/2fCAlLu). More information is available here.
Spinoza on Descartes
The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.Spinoza, Ethics, V
It is thoroughly established that Baruch Spinoza drew on the work of his predecessor Rene Descartes when he assembled his philosophy. What is most often put in the centre of this assumption is the way Spinoza sought to reaffirm Descartes’ system through a geometrical – and therefore, as it was thought at the time, indefeasible – superstructure.
The full extent of Descartes’ influence on Spinoza becomes clear when we turn to the Ethics. Descartes held that there is a division between our biological nature – which is wholly subject to deterministic relations – and our spirit, which is exempted from such determinism. There is a logical insufficiency at work here: if it were so that our spirit is wholly outside the biological machinery, how are we to explain that the spirit cannot withdraw its body from the iron-laws of nature?
It is in response to such questions that Spinoza would mould his refinement of Descartes. To Spinoza it isn’t so much that the mind – which is what the spirit receives as its reformulation – is singular in its exemption from iron-cast determinism, but that we can become conscious of determinism, and that this raising to the level of consciousness is what enable us to withdraw from the biological machinations of nature.
Spinoza upends Descartes’ absolute division between nature and spirit: rather, it is the extent to which the mind apprehends its situation in a domain of necessity that indicates our ability to command our emotions. We are reminded of Schopenhauer’s’ later wisdom: “to obtain something we have desired is to find out that it is worthless; we are always living in expectation of better things.”
To desire is to be dissatisfied, and to be able to regard one’s desire as transitory is our only source of tranquillity.
New poem in translation
Snow can cover things up, bury people and objects, draw a blanket over the dead, turn darkness into whiteness, alter the light. Here’s a translation of a historical poem on a situation that was contemporary to the poet, Göran Sonnevi, and that would lead to mass upheavals and significant shifts in how we thought about our relations. We are compelled to ask about the legacy of recent armed interventions and what the future holds.
Nietzsche’s rejection of happiness
Nietzsche makes no secret of that it is Schopenhauer – Europe’s great pessimist – that is his true and most magnificent teacher. It is from him that Nietzsche got his idea of the will as essential to man and his existence, and it is against Schopenhauer that Nietzsche can finally announce the end of all values, or, to put it more precisely, the zero-point of morality that has as its entailment the transvaluation of all hitherto acknowledges values.
Let’s begin from the beginning: the question of the will. To Kant the world as it appears to us had a dark and hidden underside, what he referred to as the noumenon. Behind the phenomena were this entity, shrouded in darkness and knowable only as negation. To speculate about the noumenon, Kant believed, was tantamount to delving in metaphysics, and this was something Kant would advice strongly against.
To Schopenhauer things were different. While he acknowledges the division between the world as it is experienced and some hidden core or essence to this world, the noumenon was not beyond speculation. In fact, the noumenon was renderable as will. Hidden behind everything we see – the representations of our world – is a world-governing will, and the will manifests itself in people, but also in animals, in organic matter – trees, grass, plants – and even in dead objects: planets moving through space is governed by will. There isn’t anything morally laudable or desirable in the will – it’s on the level of what later philosophers would refer to as an existential facticity.
It is only with Nietzsche that the will takes on the appearance of something that is in itself beneficial. In his Genealogy of Morals he critiques Schopenhauer for claiming to have found an essence to ethics: the pessimist held that our ability to experience compassion lay at the core of our morality. It is this claim that Nietzsche cannot endure. The will, Nietzsche held, doesn’t rely on any preconceived ethical core. Not even compassion or happiness can hold that position. Instead, the will is nourished by that which supports and strengthens the will itself.
Such considerations tend to turn curious travellers away from Nietzsche: should life have some ethical core or daimonic goal? Commentators have claimed that Nietzsche’s will to power has to do with the kind of self-preservation that was hailed by biologists and 19th Century social critics influenced by Darwin. Such readings of Nietzsche should be complemented with a fuller understanding of what it is that Nietzsche’s Superman – the Ubermench – is above or beyond. And the answer is not other people or some such, but values that have been received as essential without being subjected to the kind of trans-valuation prescribed by Nietzsche.
To Nietzsche the essence of life lay not in “self-preservation,” but in a self-transcending enhancement. Valuable are those moments that supports, furthers, and awakens the enhancement of life.
Gelassenheit and The Shining
The experience of releasement Martin Heidegger develops in the concept of Gelassenheit has a precise analogy in the film The Shining (directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Stephen King, released in 1980). What is curious is the way we are introduced to what is referred to as “the gift” of the child in the film and how it turns out to be the crucial divisor between survival and nothingness.
Already in the precursor to the famous scenes in the mountain hotel the child reveals his special talents when he in a conversation with his imaginary friend Tony is imparted visions of doom: blood flooding through hotel corridors, girls pale as corpses, and so on. He has some kind of seizure, and the physician who examines him suggests that it could have been caused by an imagination of the vivid kind. It is only when he arrives at the hotel and is left alone with the chef that he realises that he is not alone in having the visions and encounters that Tony has mediatised to him. The chef explains quite clearly how some people can see beyond the immediate coordinates of our spatio-temporal givenness and perceive events that have happened before or that have yet to happen.
Indeed, this is precisely what turns out to be the case. As his father works himself deeper into a state of obsessive compulsion, the horrid visions the child are realised, both as confirmations of past events and as actualisations of visions that can be perceived as nothing but premonitions on the side of the child. The temptation here is clearly to remain within the explanatory framework offered by the figures of the story, and, indeed, by the story itself. The boy is perceived as having the ability of recounting hidden events from the past and to foresee future events: thus is his gift.
Should we nevertheless not turn another page in Heidegger’s notion of
to find a more thorough and less speculative en-framing of the gift? There is no need to question the boy’s abilities as a kind of special skill. However, and this is the crucial point, the visions and perceptions that the boy have when he is in his particular state of reception are interpretations that are contingent on his transversal into a domain beyond the ordinary. We first get a clear sense if this kind of encounter the first time he meets the chef in the kitchen. While the chef is explaining to the boy’s mother the various components of the storage facilities, the boy is able to somehow take leave of the ordinary conversation and its literal references and enter into a state where he hears a more profound voice emanating from the chef, as if from the underside or beyond the immediate words. What the boy hears is the chef asking if he would like some ice-cream.
The situation is similar to the scene in the precursor in that the boy is able to access some level of experience that is not immediately available through a set of common references and literal readings. In the film this theme is developed further so that in the end the boy is able to use his skills to manipulate the perceptions of others, and, finally, bring to the rescue the chef from his vacation.
What the boy is able to do is to step into what Heidegger referred to as the clearing. It is a space where we move beyond our everyday literalnesses and can encounter some hidden truth that is revealed – however brief – before it is again covered over. The clearing is not a particular spatial location or domain that we can wilfully enter. Rather, to enter the clearing is to have the experience of releasement: it is as if we are unconstrained and let go into this domain of transversal on the condition that our perceptions there are subject to codification of a particularly enigmatic kind.
It is such experiences that lie behind the child’s pact with his imaginary friend Tony that whatever he is imparted while in this special state of transportation must remain hidden.
More on things
Things aren’t just things. At least they weren’t to Heidegger. In his Being and Time he makes an important distinction between two kinds of entities: most things come to us in our quest to solve something, do something or other, resolve a question or what have you. A nail sticks out. What are you looking for? A hammer. How do you approach the hammer? As an instrument to put the nail where it should be. The hammer becomes a thing to us as a tool to deal with the nail. This way of becoming present is what Heidegger referred to as Zuhandenheit, often translated as Readiness-at-hand.
It has been much discussed how Heidegger had a penchant from the beginning – and by beginning we mean in this context Being and Time of 1927 – for uncovering things, i.e., objects, from their stale and habitual relations. For instance, Heidegger would talk about the shoes on van Gogh’s painting in a 1935 essay thus:
This equipment [the shoes] belongs to the earth, and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman. From out of this protected belonging the equipment itself rises to its resting-within-itself.
This essence of the shoes – their shoe-ness – is what makes the shoes into shoes.
Heidegger’s approach is quite different from what we are used to from the world of non-natural – i.e., computer – languages. If we want to define a property in a programming language we give it attributes, and the property is by definition the totality of these attributive entitites.
Not so with Heidegger. With him the shoe – the equipment – is given its thingness through it place in the world. It belongs somewhere, it is cared for by someone, it has the potentiality to rest somewhere.
The Wittgenstein scholar – and, perchance, utilitarian – is eager to object that, surely, the meaning of the shoe lies in its use. An unused shoe isn’t much of a shoe, if even a shoe at all, is it? If the equipment hasn’t been used there is a sense – this scholar would add – in which is hasn’t been brought to existence as equipment.
This is the key to understand the difference between the utilitarian approach and Heidegger’s way: Heidegger was not alone in observing how we in our dislocation from tradition and historicity have come to disconnect from the things we surround ourselves with. Are the things revolting against or to us? Are they escaping our grip, avoiding our attempts to capture them in our instrumental gaze?
Heidegger would have it this way: we cannot rely simply on our received wisdom so as to know things. As John van Buren points out in Reading Heidegger from the Start, already in his theological studies of the 1910s, Heidegger was critically aware of the necessity to go back “to the things themselves.” Here we are situated in an anticipation of what Heidegger would later refer to as the clearing: when the young Heidegger would open Martin Luther’s biblical references he ventured into a domain in which the wisdom of the Greeks could be repositioned in relation to the “factic life experiences” of the early Christians.
These experiences – grace, power, glory – and the way they gave force to Heidegger’s attempt to question dogma in theology and philosophy was what provided the basis and foundation for the path-clearing Being and Time.
Heidegger on theology
In Being and Time Heidegger enumerates how a range of disciplines – sciences and humanist enquiry – have had their fields reconfigured as a result of deep-searching alterations in how their most basic objects have been grasped. The theory of relativity, the relation between tradition and historicity, and so on, have had such strong impacts on their respective fields of operation their their most fundamental beliefs have been altered. What is perhaps even more striking still today is Heidegger’s brief glimpse into the theological debate of his time.
Heidegger was thoroughly versed in contemporary theology: prior to writing Being and Time he had written papers on Luther, Calvin and others, and in the late 1910s he broke with his Catholic boyhood faith. It is in this light we should read his comments on the upheaval in theology, which, in Heidegger’s view, had been brought about by a renewed attention to Luther’s critique of a purely formal approach to belief. Heidegger comments that the crux of Luther’s argument was that the foundation of dogma at Luther’s time had not been consistent with attention to faith, and in certain respects would distort and falsify a relation to divinity that is faith based.
They key here is that to Heidegger the central concern of theology should be faith – how is man configured in his belief in divinity. Man and God, mortal and groundless ground, wesen and Being: these key concepts retain their sense in the context of faith and faith alone. Questions of dogma, tradition and denomination are secondary.
Where does such reflections place us in the most up-heaving debate concerning theology in our time: the claim that the core component of a world view – any world view – is faith? Theology today should embrace a notion of power that brings to the table precisely the question of belief: power is praised, upheld, cared for in so far as it is a power that is faithfully adhered to. And it is a view that has ample support in Scripture: in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we read that
that which is sown in dishonour is raised in glory. That which is sown in weakness, is raised in power. That which is sown in a body of nature is raised in a body of spirit. [1 Corinthians 15: 43-44]
Glory, power, spirit: these are words that properly belong in the domain of theology, they are complex and challenging, and yet they provide us with key terms for investigations that truly situate us in the centre of what should inform our most critical debates today.
Ginsberg on Miłosz on Ginsberg
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid, I’m not sorry. Allen Ginsberg, America
Did I fulfill what I had to do, here, on earth? Czesław Miłosz, One more contradiction
There’s a wonderful moment in Czesław Miłosz’ well-known tribute To Allen Ginsberg when the reader is given to wonder if all Miłosz retained from his engagement with Ginsberg’s poetry was a figure prone to psychiatry, illicit substances and rebel posturing.
It is not so.
What abscones Ginsberg is his refusal of the ironic gesture so prevalent in today’s conversation. It is the “demure smiles of ironists [that] are preserved in the museums, not as everlasting art.” We understand that Miłosz exempted Ginsberg from this fault: his was an art of belief.
Did Ginsberg comment on Miłosz? Read closely his most cherished poem America. In it you will find portrayals of events and movements that shaped the world of Miłosz, albeit from – as it were – the opposite direction. When Ginsberg gives voice to his sentimentality about members of the Industrial Workers of the World – the “Wobblies” – these were types that governed the land Miłosz had renounced.
Their perspective can be nothing but divergent: when Ginsberg find freedom in Carl Solomon’s Howl, Miłosz cannot but be reminded of the way psychiatry was a tool for political oppression in Eastern Europe. Where Miłosz longs for institutions that can buttress a tradition beyond the grasp of immediate political gains, Ginsberg seeks anarchy and spontaneity.
Where Miłosz’ conservatism becomes a call for civilization, Ginsberg prophesizes a freedom that can bear nothing old, nothing lasting.
There is nevertheless one thing they agree on: there is truth, and there is truth in art.
Foucault on descent – and, by way of implicature, the advantages of speaking a language secondarily
Descent attaches itself to the body. It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate bodies of those whose ancestors committed errors. Fathers have only to mistake effects for causes, believe in the reality of an “afterlife,” or maintain the value of eternal truths, and the bodies of their children will suffer. Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Truth and Method, p82.
Is it no so, then, than speaking one’s first language entails, to Foucault, a certain relation to the nervous system, temper, digestion, etc., and when we acquire a second language these relations are altered? Should we ask how the mistakes of fathers are reproduced in second language acquisition (“you can’t say that!” or “that’s an improper subject-verb constellation!”, etc) – and the manner in which the element of grammer in our teachings serves to maintain a metaphysical relation to language (pace Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar”)?
is part of our task – finally – to reduce suffering?
Wittgenstein on the “foreign” experience
What a statement seems to imply to me, it doesn’t to you. If you should ever live amongst foreign people for any length of time and be dependent on them you will understand my difficulty. Ludwig Wittgenstein
Making do with structure
...or how to cope with the precedence of language
When psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan noted that it is not so much a matter of there being language to cover all the objetcs in the world as it is a question of a language that suffices to satisfy our needs .. did he not foreshadow an approach to language learning that emphasises skills acquisition organised around specific contexts of practice – so that when we learn how to speak in situations related to travel, we acquire language oriented towards coping with such situations– ?
The Future of the (Online) University
The Economist writes about the innovative Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how they challenge the traditional higher education strucure of learning. The point here is that, while traditional courses come with high marginal costs – adding additional students entail large investments in teaching staff and physical structure –, MOOCs come with “rock bottom marginal cost” per student. After developing the course and getting started, adding new students is “virtually free,” according Economist.
The story, published in the paper edition on Feb 8, 2014, surmises that
- “until recently” students were required to be present “in a lecture hall to hear the professor” or “around a table with fellow students” – implicating that teachers are distant to learners in traditional university settings, and that collaborative face-to-face learning is undesirable, or, in the least, not superior to online alternatives.
- students crave more intimate contact with teachers. The story claims that “interaction with professors is limited to keep costs down.” Nevertheless, interaction with skilled teachers is costly, and online contact is not of the same quality as physical proximity offered in traditional university settings.
Two interesting and relevant corollaries are offered by way of quotations from Stanford professor Caroline Hoxby:
First, “less than selective (read: cheap) institutions are close substitutes for MOOCs. ... Most are at serious risk of displacement.”
Second, “elite institutions face very different circumstances.” They offer “labour-intensive education to highly qualified students” aiming to “cultivate a sense of belonging ... in order to recoup their investment decades later in the form of donations.” However, when such institutions offer MOOCs, “the personal link between students and the university” is broken, making elite graduates feel less like “the chosen few. For top schools, the best bet may simply be to preserve their exclusivity.” Writes The Economist. On page 64. Of the Feb 8, 2014, edition.
Å brette læringssubjektet
Om Deleuze. Å brette læringssubjektet:
På en måte er Gilles Deleuzes’ forståelse av bretten en kritikk av dem som forstår subjektivitet som en enkel innside og utside (fasade og essens eller overflate og dybde), for bretten hevder at innsida ikke er noe mer eller noe annet enn en innbretting av utsida.
Michel Foucault illustrerer denne relasjonen slik: Renessanseepokens gale, den som settes ut i en båt og der blir passasjer eller “fange” i det eksternes interiør, dvs i havets innbretting, blir for Deleuze en stadig mer kompleks skildring av mangfoldet av innbrettingsmodaliteter: Fra innbretting av våre materielle selv, våre kropper, til tidsinnbrettinger, altså minnene våre.
Subjektivitet i seg sjøl kan forstås som en innbrettingas topologi. Bretten er slik også navnet på en relasjon vi har til oss sjøl (til følelsene vi har for – og som dermed virker på – oss sjøl). I antikkens Hellas oppdaget og iverksatte man denne bretteteknikken. Det er dette vi kjenner som sjølmestring.Simon O’ Sullivan, “Definition: Fold”
Her er det lenker for deg som er interessert i norsk som andrespråk.
Everything can ...
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
A Krashen course in SLA
Stephen Krashen’s classic Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning, online from his own weg-site. It’s a bit longish, and dates back to the glorious eighties (1981 to be precise). But it made waves. And still does.