Radical OA as a front

Sun, 25 Oct 2020 16:59:00 +0000
Academic journals Academic journals. Photo by Patrycja Fjeld.

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.

open_access; radical_oa; publishing; academic; plan_s; publication_fees

Ereignis: the thought

Fri, 11 Sep 2020 15:09:29 +0000
Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts

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.

Ereignis: the thought: a general introduction to the philosophy of Ereignis. Badiou; blog posts; Ereignis; event; Heidegger; presencing; Schirmacher; technology; truth

New book: The Time Machine edited by Poul Houe

Tue, 04 Aug 2020 09:26:18 +0000
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, edited and introduced by Poul Houe. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, edited and introduced 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

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.

announcements; classics; fiction; publication; Wells

Inscriptions 3, n2: Power in a time of pandemic is out

Fri, 03 Jul 2020 09:59:18 +0000
Inscriptions 3, n2. Inscriptions 3, n2.

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).

Recent Issues

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. Contributions by Mehdi Parsa, Regina Surber and Christopher Norris. Agamben; announcements; constructivism; desert island; fiction; governmentality; just killing; pandemic; philosophy; psycho-analysis; state of exception

CfP Inscriptions 4, n1: Artificial Life: ethics and the good life

Wed, 17 Jun 2020 10:40:05 +0000

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:

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.

Recent Issues

Inscriptions, a journal for contemporary thinking on art, philosophy and psycho-analysis, seeks essays for our volume 4, n1, on artificial life and ethical living in general. Deadlines 15 Sept (300w proposal)/15 Oct (5000w manuscript). Submit at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ announcements; artificial life; CfP; ethics; good life; Inscriptions; Schirmacher

Philosophers at a distance

Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:00:35 +0000
The Daily Nous The Daily Nous.

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.

How would Plato respond to our call to social distancing? “Okay everybody, change of plans: stay inside your caves!” Philosophical wit by Justin Weinberg. blog posts; Daily Nous; philosophers; wit

Žižek on the pandemic

Mon, 16 Mar 2020 13:36:08 +0000
Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek.

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.

In his new intervention Slavoj Žižek advocates international solidarity in the face of the ongoing epidemic, on the grounds that such solidarity is “the only rationally egotistic thing to do.” blog posts; philosophy; rationality; spirit; universalism; Žižek

Book out on utopos: Veisland edits Wuthering Heights

Fri, 28 Feb 2020 14:56:11 +0000
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, edited and introduced by Jørgen Veisland Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, edited and introduced by Jørgen Veisland.

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.

utopos publishing, the English-language imprint of Tankebanen forlag, is out with a new volume in our series Know Your Classics: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights edited and introduced by Professor Jørgen Veisland. Browse our catalogue at https://utopos.tankebanen.no/catalogue.xhtml announcements; book; Brontë; Tankebanen; utopos; Veisland

Scruton, the grateful philosopher, departs

Tue, 14 Jan 2020 13:15:59 +0000
Roger Scruton Roger Scruton. Image courtesy of Pete Helme.

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

Read his full 2019 retrospective.

Scruton’s obituary in The Daily Nous.

Roger Scruton has passed. Read his own retrospective view on 2019, possibly his last living publication. blog posts; eulogies; Poland; Scruton; Wagner

Inscriptions 3, n1: Outsourced! Mediatisation and revolt is out

Wed, 01 Jan 2020 12:46:20 +0000
Inscriptions 3, n1. Inscriptions 3, n1.

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).

More: https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/

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. We are interested in 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. With essays by Tidhar Nir, Jørgen Veisland, and commentaries by Sharif Abdunnur and Torgeir Fjeld, Inscriptions 3, n1, discusses relations between creativity and the Real. Street-art by AFK. https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ AFK; announcements; art; interpassivity; Lebanon; outsourcing; philosophy; psycho-analysis; publications; revolt; street-art

Perversion’s Beyond reviewed in Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature

Mon, 09 Dec 2019 14:51:20 +0000

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.

Professor Jørgen Veisland reviews Perversion’s Beyond in Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature, finding it a “tour de force through Freudian and Lacanian theory.” books; Freud; journal; Lacan; perversion; publications; reviews

Fosse in support of Handke

Wed, 04 Dec 2019 15:04:46 +0000
Peter Handke Peter 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/)

Jon Fosse defended the award of the Ibsen Prize to Peter Handke in 2014. Recently, two members of the Nobel committee resigned because they disagreed with the award of the Nobel Prize to Handke. Read a translation of Fosse’s defense of Handke here. aesthetics; commentaries; Fosse; free speech; Handke; Ibsen prize; literature; Nobel Prize

Perversion’s Beyond on LacanOnline.com

Wed, 11 Sep 2019 09:18:02 +0000

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.

books; Lacan; mentions; perversion; publications

Instruction with a certified teacher in Norwegian and English

Fri, 06 Sep 2019 07:24:21 +0000

Learn to communicate fluently in Norwegian or English with the aid of state-of-the-art techniques, cutting edge technology, and great selections of exercises to get you talking and writing in no time.

Torgeir Fjeld (PhD) is an experienced instructor of Norwegian and English as a Second Language. He received his training from the University of Minnesota and the University of Oslo, Norway, and is a certified teacher, with Norwegian, English and Social Science as his fields of specialization.

Torgeir has worked as a language instructor in colleges such as the American College of Norway and the University of Gdańsk, Poland, as well as with individual clients for more than 20 years, and makes use of a wide variety of techniques tailored to each student’s needs and preferences.

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 English; in-house; instruction; languages; learning; Norwegian; online; second language acquisition

Perversion’s Beyond is out

Thu, 08 Aug 2019 09:53:24 +0000
Perversion’s Beyond Perversion’s Beyond.

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/

Perversion’s Beyond: new study by Torgeir Fjeld on the philosophy of psycho-analysis out on Atropos Press on September 1st. More info: torgeirfjeld.com/ Atropos; book; Freud; Heidegger; Lacan; lebenskunst; philosophy; psycho-analysis; publications

Ereignis redesigned

Tue, 06 Aug 2019 11:22:42 +0000

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 ~~

announcements; design; Ereignis; link; web

CfP Inscriptions: Outsourced! Mediatisation and rivalry

Thu, 01 Aug 2019 09:17:51 +0000

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

CfP Inscriptions 3, n1: peer reviewed academic journal on philosophy, psycho-analysis, and the arts seeks contributions before September 15, 2019. See https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ announcements; art; essays; interpassivity; interviews; journal; mediatisation; philosophy; psycho-analysis; reviews; rivalry

Sports make us see our bodies differently

Thu, 18 Jul 2019 08:05:24 +0000

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.

announcements; books; education; Loland; media; nation; philosophy; publications; schools; social; sport

On Jon Fosse

Tue, 09 Jul 2019 09:05:28 +0000
Jon Fosse 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.

See also:

biography; blog posts; drama; Fosse; Grotten; poetry; theatre; translations; Wergeland

Watch: talk on Hamsun and psychoanalysis

Thu, 06 Jun 2019 14:00:13 +0000

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.

art; conference; Hamsun; literature; Nobel Prize; On Overgrown Paths; psycho-analysis; treason; video essays

Rock Philosophy in paperback

Thu, 09 May 2019 13:14:22 +0000

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

See also this link:.https://www.tankebanen.no/wordpress/2018/08/07/233/

announcements; art; books; desire; discount; paperback; philosophy; psycho-analysis; publications

Mackie, the subject of philosophy

Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:46:31 +0000
J.L. Mackie J.L. Mackie.

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.

anecdote; blog posts; Mackie; objectivity; philosophers; philosophy

New issue of Inscriptions: the global unconscious

Fri, 25 Jan 2019 10:00:35 +0000
Inscriptions 2, n2 Inscriptions 2, n2.

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.

Enquiries: inscriptions@removethis.tankebanen.no

9-11; announcements; art; Freud; journal; Melgaard; Munch; mystic; petroleum-culture; philosophy; psycho-analysis; publications

The arrival of Rock Philosophy

Thu, 06 Sep 2018 16:01:22 +0000

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

uncategorised

CfP: The global unconscious: art, technology, science

Thu, 23 Aug 2018 17:08:20 +0000

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:

Submission instructions

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.

announcements; art; community; global; journal; philosophy; psycho-analysis; technology; therapy; unconscious

New book with free download: Rock Philosophy

Tue, 07 Aug 2018 22:44:39 +0000
Rock Philosophy 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.

announcements; art; books; creativity; desire; Heidegger; Lacan; philosophy; poetry; psycho-analysis; publications

Kissinger, 95, on AI: wisdom is overwhelmed

Fri, 20 Jul 2018 18:59:02 +0000
Henry Kissinger Henry Kissinger. Image courtesy nobelprize.org.

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.

AI; art; blog posts; creativity; Kissinger; thinking

Editorial on Schirmacher

Mon, 09 Jul 2018 20:38:26 +0000
Wolfgang Schirmacher Wolfgang 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!

announcements; journal; media; phenomenology; philosophy; publications; Schirmacher; technology

Wolfgang Schirmacher on Ereignis

Wed, 02 May 2018 13:27:26 +0000

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?

uncategorised

Ereignis Retreat 2018

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 11:53:02 +0000

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/

announcements; Breivik; ecosophy; Ereignis; Figgis; healing; retreat; Schirin; Schirmacher; yoga

When the family historian leaves: Per Edfeldt (1939-2018)

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:18:38 +0000
Per Edfeldt Per Edfeldt. Image courtesy Moss Byleksikon.

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.

eulogies; history; Labour party; local historian; Moss; Norway; Per Edfeldt

New poem by Tomas Tranströmer in translation

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:55:16 +0000
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 .

blog posts; poetry; translation; Tranströmer

CfP Inscriptions 1, n1

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:56:42 +0000

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.

announcements; art; journal; philosophy; psycho-analysis

On Melgaard and Munch at MECCSA 2018, London

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 01:00:32 +0000

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.

A House to Die in; art; conference; Melgaard; Munch; philosophy; psycho-analysis

Video essays on Schopenhauer

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 17:15:41 +0000

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.

freewill; philosophy; Schopenhauer; video essays

New publication: Bergman on alienation and creativity

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 13:58:53 +0000
Vargtimmen -- film poster Vargtimmen.

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.

alienation; Bergman; creativity; publications

Presencing the writer: Jon Fosse and ecstatic communion

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:19:35 +0000
A Clockwork Orange -- movie poster A Clockwork Orange.

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.

Burgess; Fosse; Heidegger; publications

Video essays on Badiou and Nietzsche

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 19:38:12 +0000

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?

Badiou; Nietzsche; philosophy; salvation; video essays

Praise for dressage and illusio

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 19:03:12 +0000

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.

cultural theory; philosophy; publications; sport

More stuff and poems here...

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 10:11:22 +0000

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!

uncategorised

Op-ed piece on video refereeing in football (Norwegian)

>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:09:47 +0000

This essay on video refereeing in football was published by the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet 21 July in Norwegian.

psycho-analysis; publications; sport; technology

Everything you need to know about sport in the global media

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 22:08:02 +0000
dressage and illusio dressage and illusio

New book by Torgeir Fjeld out on Scholars’ Press. Among the key questions raised in this book are:

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.

Bourdieu; cultural theory; media; mediatization; psycho-analysis; publications; sport; Žižek

Video lecture on Kierkegaard and Agamben

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 15:52:09 +0000

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.

Agamben; culture; history; Kierkegaard; Kingo; lectures; literature; Pascal; poetry; potentialities; power; theology; philosophy; video

Some recent publications

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 19:37:45 +0000

“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.

acephalic; authentic; biology; clandestine; destitution; epic; excessive; fantasy; globalisation; governance; grace; illusio; knowledge; liberty; links; memory; Messianic; mind; philosophy; power; psychoanalysis; seduction; silence; theology; philosophy

Schopenhauer’s lineage

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 23:11:58 +0000
Heiligegeistgasse, Danzig Heiligegeistgasse, Danzig: Schopenhauer’s birth place

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.

death; determinism; existence; immortality; individuality; noumenon; Russell; Schopenhauer; Spinoza; theology; philosophy

Dressage and illusio

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 22:18:00 +0000
Pierre Bourdieu Pierre Bourdieu

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.

art; belief; books; consciousness; culture; history; disinterest; fantasy; globalisation; governance; knowledge; mastery; nationalism; science; spectacles; sport

Private language

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 00:22:28 +0000
George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, etching. Courtesy of the Yale University Manuscripts.

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. Berkeley; culture; history; Edmund Gordon; forms of life; language; private; theology; philosophy; Times Literary Supplement; Twitter; Wittgenstein

Exhumation

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 20:09:13 +0000
Illustration by Patrycja Wrocławska, used by permission Illustration: Patrycja Wrocławska, used by permission
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.
art; causality; culture; history; poetry; tragedy

Spinoza on Descartes

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 03:35:00 +0000
Spinoza Baruch Spinoza
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.

biology; consciousness; Descartes; desire; determinism; mind; Schopenhauer; Spinoza; spirit; theology; philosophy

New poem in translation

Mon, 07 Nov 2016 19:06:56 +0000
Göran Sonnevi Photo courtesy of Poetry Foundation.

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.

Read the poem here.

culture; history; memory; poetry; President Johnson; Sonnevi; translation; Viet Nam

Nietzsche’s rejection of happiness

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 23:07:55 +0000
Friedrich Nietzsche Friedrich Nietzsche. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

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.

culture; history; ethics; facticity; happiness; Kant; Nietzsche; noumenon; power; Schopenhauer; superman; theology; philosophy; transvaluation; Übermench; will

Gelassenheit and The Shining

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 23:12:12 +0000
Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)

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.

art; clearing; en-framing; films; Gelassenheit; King; Kubrick; theology; philosophy; transversal

More on things

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 00:53:22 +0000

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.

Uncategorized

Recovering things

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 00:53:22 +0000
Vincent van Gogh’s Shoes The shoes of Vincent van Gogh.

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.

art; facticity; Heidegger; Luther; theology; philosophy; things; van Buren; Wittgenstein

Heidegger on theology

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 02:23:26 +0000
Sein und Zeit first edition Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit, translated as Being and Time.

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.

Being; Heidegger; Luther; philosophy; power; theology; philosophy

Ginsberg on Miłosz on Ginsberg

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:13:42 +0000
Czesław Miłosz Czesław Miłosz. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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.

culture; history; Ginsberg; institutions; Miłosz; poetry

Foucault on descent – and, by way of implicature, the advantages of speaking a language secondarily

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:26:34 +0000
Michel Foucault Michel Foucault. Image courtesy Verso Books.
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?

foreignness; Foucault; grammatikk; language; Nietzsche; suffering

Wittgenstein on the “foreign” experience

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:41:11 +0000
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
foreign; foreignness; philosophy; Wittgenstein

Making do with structure

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 20:16:04 +0000
Jacques Lacan Jacques Lacan.

...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– ?

Lacan; language; second language acquisition; skills

The Future of the (Online) University

Thu, 13 Feb 2014 15:59:26 +0000

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

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.

branding; economy; online; university; value

Å brette læringssubjektet

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 03:56:06 +0000

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”, http://simonosullivan.net/articles/deleuze-dictionary.pdf
language; linguistics; second language acquisition

Lenkefest

Fri, 28 Jun 2013 16:07:53 +0000

Lenkefest

Her er det lenker for deg som er interessert i norsk som andrespråk.

grammatikk; lenker; lytte; NOA; ordbok

Everything can ...

Thu, 23 May 2013 19:59:43 +0000
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
attitude; foreignness; Frankl; quotes

A Krashen course in SLA

Fri, 10 May 2013 14:53:08 +0000

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. 

full-text books; Krashen; language; links; second language acquisition

The meaning of ...

Wed, 01 May 2013 13:48:37 +0000
The meaning of a word is its use in the language. Ludwig Wittgenstein
language; quotes; second language acquisition; Wittgenstein

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