Friday, February 26, 2010

Philosopher that I became the most disillusioned with.

As the most overrated philosopher meme continues to circle, I wanted to try a variation.

Levi pointed to Badiou for him as the most overrated philosopher. But it contained a level of disillusionment. After an initial excitement with Badiou, there was a let down. I think this might be a more interesting way to do this. After all, for most of us feeling a thinker is overrated is never liking them. But there are any number of reasons that could be true, and not particularly insightful. I believe thinkers that caused excitement an then stopped being useful is a different category all together.

For me, that'd be Paul Virilio. When I first ran across his work as an undergrad I was really excited by him. There was a particular kind of marxist strain at the time that I was finding suffocating, and he and Delanda were the main thinkers who opened up a path out of that. But, shortly after I was no longer there I was increasingly annoyed by Virilio (though I continue to find Delanda provocative and useful). His apocalyptic visions, while perhaps the stuff of a great graphic novel, didn't seem very useful for doing philosophy. And whereas calling Derrida a one-trick pony, whatever, but Virilio really is.

Most overrated philosopher: Sartre edition.

This is the most recent meme from all the usual suspects (I need to get to bed, so forgive me to not doing the links tonight). And it is kinda fun, especially the parts of the rules different people discuss.

I'm not sure I wouldn't tell you who I think the most overrated philosopher is, if I knew. My real problem is that when I run into a thinker whose thought doesn't match the hype, I stop reading. Which makes me a bad judge to know if they are overrated.

One of the more interesting comments has been the re-evaluation of Sartre. Which I have seen not just from this conversation but in general. Sartre in general, but particularly the Sartre of the Critiques of Dialectical Reason, has being considered to be a serious thinker again. The general feeling seems to be, Sartre at his peak probably was overrated, but nowadays he is downright underrated. Which I agree with. But I think he may still be overrated with those who take French existentialism seriously. For whatever reason, Simone de Beauvior continues to under appreciated and under read, regulated to a niche group of readers, whom mostly read her for history of women's studies reasons. Yet, I cannot see how, in her work broadly, she isn't simply the more original and provocative thinker of the two.

Maybe I will try to say something productive on the case of Derrida tomorrow. If it isn't productive, I won't bother. I don't need to defend him.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adorno, tell them how it is!

"That we cannot tell what man is does not establish a peculiarly majestic anthropology; it vetoes any anthropology." -Negative Dialectics, p. 124.

Critique outside of anthropocentrism: Butler on Whitehead

There is an amazing lecture given by Judith Butler on Whitehead.

I should not have even taken the time to listen to this yet (I am trying to finish up applications to get funding for next year). But I wanted to suggest this lecture. I think it is by far the strongest and most philosophical explanation of Butler's (rather recent) non-anthropocentric ontology.

24 mins in starts Whitehead on the non-human.

31 mins in starts an explanation of Butler's own work.

49 mins in are a series of propositions of what we can do with a twisted ontology of the human and the non-human.

Q&A (very interesting) starts 51 mins in.

Hopefully I will give a longer analysis and explanation later. But I am on an anti-blogging regime until my applications are done (funding next year needs to be focused on).

I look forward to seeing other people reflections on this, particularly those who know Whitehead better than I.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How things have changed since the mid-90s

I just took advantage of this one day sale from Indiana UPress (hurry, and some of you may be able to, as well). Well, I picked up a copy of Reinventiong Biology, which is an edited collection dealing with experimental biology and animals published in 1995. When looking at the description of the book, the closing lines of the review caught me eye:
A welcome addition to the literature critiquing science and an excellent resource for courses on the conceptual framework of science or objectivity in science.

What is worth noting here is that a book that is primarily about the intersection of science and animals (with some about plants and other non-human beings), is being sold for courses about science rather than courses about science and/or animals. I have no real proof of this, but I have trouble believing such a description would be written about the book if it were being published today. I think in general the idea that we have courses on animals or something called critical animal studies or animal studies or whatever exists.
Just a random throwaway thought before I get back to work.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peter and Paul

Peter Gratton has an interview up with Paul Ennis. Go read it.


I just got back yesterday from a weekend birthday trip. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to blogging tomorrow or so. When I got back my reader said I had 156 new posts to read. So, uhm, I didn't do that. If I missed anything interesting, please let me know (self-promotion always encouraged).

And I'll leave this with a song that's been listening to on repeat for a while.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy circling the Sun to me.

It's my birthday. It'll be a happy one. (I'm 28 if any of you care). I'll see you all on the other end of this long weekend. I hope it is a happy my birthday to all of you as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Posting images of dead and hurt animals

I'm headed out of town for a short bit (tomorrow is my birthday).

Also, there is an appeal for conference funds, check it out.

But I wanted to post a personal annoyance. Several of the animal rights blogs I read frequently post images of dead and/or wounded animals along with their text. I really can't take it. I don't, in general, handle images of violence well. It seems to me that the people who are mostly likely reading these blogs are the people who are most likely to see the images of violence as horrible and unacceptable. This isn't meet your meat or some sort of other propaganda/teaching tool, but are usually writings to the initiated. Anyway, I don't have much in the way of a theoretical point. But I don't like it, and I think I'm going to be pulling these websites off of my RSS reader. Shortly, I won't be knowing what things TPC is saying, or a few other blogs.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Conference Hat Trick: April, Upstate, NY.

I still have to submit abstracts and be accepted, but I am currently planning on attending three conferences near each other in upstate ny on three consecutive weekends.

The ICAS conference, April 10th, Cortland, NY.

The PIC conference, April 16th-17th, Binghamton, NY.

The TRG conference, April 22nd-24th, Ithaca, NY.

So, hopefully I will get a chance to see some of you. If any of you want to meet up, buy me a drink (wink), get together for talks, whatever, let me know.

Gender liberation, feminism, and the trans movement

I want to link you all to this excellent article about feminism and transphobia by Penny Red* (h/t i.t.). I highly suggest this, so click the damn link! I'll know if you don't (actually I won't, I've never bothered to add any sort of stats monitor on this blog).

Anyway, the article really reminded me of when I was an undergraduate, and I was minoring in Women and Gender Studies. There was a professor there, a woman I respect and like quite a bit, and she was something of a second wave feminist who became third way who then went back to being second wave. We got into more arguments than I can remember, but sometimes she would assign certain authors, like Janice Raymond, and I'd be like, "How can you expect me to take this person seriously?" Anyway, I'd like to quote near the end of the article (this doesn't excuse you from clicking the link):
Trans activism is not merely a valid part of the feminist movement: it is a vital one. The notion that one’s biological sex does not have to dictate anything about one’s behaviour, appearance or the eventual layout of one’s genitals and secondary sex organs, now that we live in a glittering future where such things are possible, is the radical heart of feminist thought. It is essential for cis as well as trans feminists to oppose transphobia and transmisogyny.

Conversely, at the very heart of sexist thought is the assumption that the bodies we are born with ought to dictate our character, our behaviour, our appearance, our choices, the nature of our relationships and the work of our lives. Feminism puts forward the still-radical notion that this is not the case. Feminism holds that gender identity, rather than being written in our genes, is an emotional, personal and sexual state of being that can be expressed in myriad different ways that encompass and extend beyond the binary categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Feminism holds that prescribed gender roles are a tyranny that no-one - whether trans, cis, male, female or intersex - should be forced to conform to in order to prove their identity, their validity or their human worth.

This is an important and fundamental point. When I was doing my bit as an undergrad, I had really come to feel trapped and exhausted by certain gender norms that were being placed on me. There were certain psychic wounds, violences that had happened to me that I was unable to articulate as such because of my gender. Certain feminists, queer theory, and particularly transtheorists helped paved the way out of that for me. Particularly an early meeting with Kate Bornstein was formative for me. All of this probably also explains my early attraction with philosophers like Deleuze and Guattari, who wrote things like this:
[E]verywhere a microscopic transsexuality, resulting in the woman containing as many men as the man, and the man as many women, all capable of entering-- men with women, women with men-- into relations of production of desire that overturn the statistical order of the sexes. Making love is not just becoming one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand. Desiring-machines, or the nonhuman sex: not one or even two sexes, but n sexes. Shizoanalysis is the variable analysis of the n sexes in a subject, beyond the anthropomorphic representation that society imposes on this subject, and with which it represents its own sexuality. The schizoanalytic slogan of the desiring-revolution will be first of all: to each its own sexes. A-O, pp. 295-296.

On the one had, I am saying all of this is true, absolutely true. But I also want to hit a note of caution, from one who did it. I think this type of thinking, especially for us cisgendered, carries with it a risk of fetishizing transpeople. Many transfolk are simply trying to live their lives, many are just trying to survive in a frankly genocidal culture. We need to also be aware of that. We need to not end up turning all transpeople, or the experiances of trans people, into some sort of weird revolutionary vanguard. Liberating gender expression means also liberating people to express their gender in the most stereotypical displays. Turning a group into our revolutionary nonconformists carries with it a plethora of dangers that we have to warn against.

To each its own sexes!

*I erroneously referred to Penny Red as Red Jenny in an earlier version. Red Jenny was a nickname of a friend of mine years ago. Sorry for the mistake and any confusion.

Why I'm angry at Howard Dean

This post is going to make most of the political liberals and progressives who read this blog pissed at me. But, I'm in an angry mood tonight, so here we go. Oh yeah, those of you who wonder why I am interested in US policy mechanisms and question my radicalism will probably also be annoyed I continue to post stuff like this.

The health care bill that I have touted on this blog (see here and here) continues to have an uncertain future. There are any number of people who have dropped the ball that have brought us to this point. I should probably write a series of blog posts blasting them for their failures, but right now I am angry at one man in particular: Howard Dean.

Let me begin a bit further, a flash back to the summer and the death panel nonsense. One of the things I wondered at the time was how it was that people believed such obvious lies. Let me precise, not how could people believe the government might want to kill you, but the lie that death panels were being discussed in the health care bills. That is a matter of fact, and the facts just weren't there. But thing is, most of us aren't going to read thousands of pages of legalese, and we depend on our information from trusted sources. At the time I wondered what would happen if I was lied to by a trusted politician, amplified by trusted media personalities, with a series of lies/misinformation/and distortion spreading throughout trusted political blogs. Especially if such a lie reaffirmed my basic belief system. And this is, of course, what was happening to conservatives with Palin/Fox News/Hot Air etc. I was, I admit, a little shocked to see the same thing happen to progressives only a few short months later with the kill the bill crowd.

Progressives had become increasingly disillusioned with health care reform, many of them feeling betrayed for never having single-payer as a serious option (may I ask, single-payerists, why do you believe the system of Canada is better than Germany's? Or France's better than Japan's? or Spain's better than Sweden's?). The senate bill ended up having both a public option and a medicare buy-in option stripped out. There were lots of senators to point fingers at, but the main pointing going to Joe Lieberman. An obvious malcontent, it became clear that he was willing to put the health of millions of Americans and the financial stability of millions of families and the country as a whole in danger out of pique. Out of an obvious personal animosity toward progressives/liberals, and also a desire for attention and relevance. This included going against policies he had advocated as long ago as 2008.

At this moment the kill the bill crowd went into overdrive. Spurred on by Howard Dean, particularly in this outrageous editorial in the Washington Post. Then Keith Olbermann joined in, adding this special comment (one filled with a litany of factual errors and distortions, and weird phrase about fetishes vs. bondage), and of course Daily Kos and Fire Dog Lake got into it, and we had a wonderful version of death panels on our side. Now, maybe I believe in Howard Dean's influence too much, maybe all of this would have happened even if Howard Dean had promoted the bill. But I doubt it, Dean is a liberal hero, and considered as an health care expert. Both of those have been true for many good reasons. And the liberal turning against the bill may be the least factor in anything (it certainly isn't the only factor). Still, I can't help feeling that liberal turning against the bill have played a rather large part in our current situation, and in a Congress feeling like they can get away with passing nothing, or a stripped down version. And so, I have often pondered why Dean turned against the bill.

The most obvious answer would be to take him at his word. Except, his words have been rather incoherent to me. The bill is more radical than anything that has been done in Vermont, it is in many ways more radical than what he proposed when he was running for president in 04 (there was, obviously, no public option in that proposal). The editorial I referenced before contain several distortions, and at least one flat out factual error (as I talked about before, he claims there is no prudential purchasing power, and that Kerry is the expert on that, but there is and it is Kerry's version. And that is one of the few actual policy points brought up). So, what is going on? Is Dean lying, or wrong? Either way, his credentials as a health care expert become a bit more suspect, no?

But what if this isn't, ultimately, a policy disagreement? Or, to be more precise, what if this is only minorly a policy disagreement, and majorly a personal issue? That would certainly explain why his policy arguments are confusing, unsatisfying, and often incorrect. What personal issues are these? Not sure, but here are a few. The fact he and Rahm Emmanuel have no love lost following the 50 state strategy he decided to pursue as DNC (a strategy I agreed with). His being snubbed by not being invited to the press conference of announcing Tim Kaine as the new DNC. His obvious disappointment for not getting a cabinet position with Obama, which was intensified after Daschle dropped from HHS and Dean wasn't asked next. As a matter of fact, after Daschle dropped I thought Dean was the obvious choice. The man obviously has been treated as an outsider by the White House on the issue he feels is his. Lieberman isn't the only whose desire for attention and childish pique has hurt the chances of health care. I know that is probably a low blow. And I generally have respected and liked Dean, and maybe should go to believing he is just grossly incompetent instead. If health care fails, there will be a lot of blame to go around. A good chunk of that will fall on Obama's head. But some of it will have to fall on Dean, and to all of those who have misinformed the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic party.

Yeah, this isn't go to go over well. Going to hit publish post anyway.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I need to track down a claude levi-strauss citation in a german book, someone help me out

So, the book is: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythos und Bedeutung. Fünf Radiovorträge. Gespräche mit Claude Lévi-Strauss, ed. by Adalbert Reif (Frankfurt, 1980).

It's a book based on a series of lectures published in English as Myth and Meaning, but in the english version the book is 80 some odd pages, whereas in the German version it is 200 some odd pages. What I am interested in is roughly pages 247-250. I am curious what the chapter title is, and if there is any information about where that chapter is coming from. Is it some interview or lecture in German they decided to add, what?

If anyone could help me out, I would really appreciate it. I spent an hour trying to find this out online, or try to see if any library I had access to had this book. Thanks.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythos und Bedeutung. Fünf Radiovorträge. Gespräche mit Claude
Lévi-Strauss, ed. by Adalbert Reif (Frankfurt, 1980),

Friday, February 5, 2010

The perils and pitfalls of transnational adoption: Haiti edition

Three links, the first two from by brother, and the last one from Vegans of Color. The first one is an article about 'orphans' for sale for as little as 50 dollars in Haiti. The second one is an article about a group of Christian missionaries who abducted 33 children off the streets of Haiti, and were in the process of leaving the country with them. The last one is a statement released by Adoptees of Color on adopting children during a crisis, particularly in Haiti.

I hope that these incidents will bring greater attention to the problems of translational adoption. The continuation of racist and colonialist logics are often combined with overt neoliberal policies that turn children into transnational commodities.

It's like Matt Yglesias has never read Carl Schmitt

But if Scooter Libby obstructs justice, the president has an un-reviewable, un-checkable power to offer him a pardon or clemency. If Bill Clinton wants to bomb Serbia, then Serbia gets bombed. If George W Bush wants to hold people in secret prisons and torture them, then tortured they shall be. And if Barack Obama wants to issue a kill order on someone or other, then the order goes out. And if Congress actually wants to remove a president from office, it faces extremely high barriers to doing so.

Whether or not you approve of this sort of executive power in the security domain, it’s a bit of a weird mismatch. You would think that it’s in the field of inflicting violence that we would want the most institutional restraint. Instead, the president faces almost no de facto constraints on his deployment of surveillance, military, and intelligence authority but extremely tight constraint on his ability to implement the main elements of the his domestic policy agenda.

This is response to the revelation that Obama has continued a Bush era program to allow assassinations of American citizens deemed in league with 'terrorists.'

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hardt and Negri and love in Commonwealth

Jodi Dean has an interesting post up on Hardt and Negri's Commonwealth, which most of you know I read and reviewed for Radical Philosophy Review (thanks again, Peter). In her post, Dean makes some arguments/gut reactions about using love, joy, etc as political theoretical categories. I don't necessary share those, but it provides a decent place for me to begin some public thoughts on their categories of love.

One of the things you'll notice in Commonwealth is a bizarrely Heidegger-esque language about true forms of love from false forms of love. While the word authentic itself isn't thrown around, it certainly feels like what Adorno once called the jargon of authenticity. I don't want to get too much into all of this now (I know their response would probably be they aren't be Heideggerians, but Spinozians, maybe I'll try to spell this out in more detail later). But I think there is a large and useful literature base on the political question of love, particularly in the literature base of radical women of color. What is odd is that this base, some of which has been cited in previous discussions of love, is missing from Commonwealth's discussion of love.

However, the most interesting criticism of Hardt and Negri's notion of love comes from Ranciere's interview "People or Multitude". In it Ranciere argues that political subjectivity comes not from love, but from apparatuses of litigation against specific torts. Negation serves an important process of producing radical political subjectivities.

Anyway, I haven't really said much. Hopefully I will get to a more fully formed post later.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reasons for vegetarianism/veganism besides...

... economic boycott? Or, I guess I should rephrase that: What are some reasons for vegetarianism/veganism besides economic boycott? I think a lot of people spend time explaining why we shouldn't (or should!) kill animals and/or treat them as property. But where are explanations on the justification for vegetarianism/veganism as a necessary component of opposition, besides arguments about economic boycott?

Thanks for any and all help.