Updates from December, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

 
  • Mark 5:08 pm on December 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: david foster wallace,   

    This Is Water 

    Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing

    The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

    http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf

     
  • Mark 4:21 pm on December 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , smart capitalism, taylorization 2.0,   

    The fascinating banality of business bullshit 

    There are many reasons not to listen to this nonsense. The glaring philosophical contradictions, the creepily messianic tones of his speech, the self-indulgent and naive politics underlying it. But as an emerging managerial discourse, upon which this man has apparently established a large consultancy and made a lot of money, it absolutely fascinates me. What explains the apparent receptiveness to at least some of these ideas? The speaker is apparently the “hottest advisor on the corporate virtue circuit”. Is anyone else fascinated to discover there is a “corporate virtue circuit”? 

    As loathe as I am to say it, he does seem to be offering something marginally more substantive than a greenwashing consultancy. But what is that something? There are two key ideas in this talk:

    • the shift from what to how – replacing a focus on outcomes with a focus on technique, moving from quantity to quality
    • the need to affectively engage workers, ‘inspiring them’ rather than motivating them with carrots or threatening them with sticks

    The first seems like an insight which can only be marginally applied. In the speaker’s terms, there’s an inevitable limit to how far it can be scaled i.e. metrics don’t emerge in organisations simply because ‘leaders’ have yet to encounter the speaker’s ‘insights’. The second point is more interesting. There’s a gloriously polemical Zero Book which explores the implications of this line of argument. Money is being ‘wasted’ through the ‘disengagement’ of workers. Therefore we need new technologies of affect to reach into the souls of workers, to inspire them and make them go the extra mile for the company. It’s in this context that we should think about the uptake of self-tracking and gamification within contemporary organisation. I’d like to understand the sociology of this in much greater depth than I do. I’m astonished and fascinated by the bullshit which seems to thrive in the world of ‘leadership’, ‘corporate virtue’ and ‘motivational speaking’. 

     
  • Mark 1:22 pm on December 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Blogging and the 1%-9%-90% rule 

    A very interesting post here:

    There’s an internet rule called 1%-9%-90% which states 1% create, 9% comment/interact/curate, 90% consume. Let me borrow this construct and apply it specifically to web publishing:

    • WordPress is for the 1%. There are content creators who want their own dry piece of land, a full featured CMS and total control over their blog. I am one of these people. These folks also are happy to deal with their own content promotion and try to build an audience. They construct their own themes and topics to write about, and most of the content is original to them.
    • Medium is for the 9%. These people want to write but don’t want to maintain a blog (hence the publishing tool and centralized namespace). They sometimes need inspiration or to feel like part of something bigger (hence collections). They aren’t focused on driving their own traffic (hence promotion). They don’t want to blog daily or necessarily establish an ongoing readership. They like feedback (hence comments) but don’t want to get into flame wars.
    • Tumblr is for the 90%. The masses want to collect, comment and republish other people’s assets. They use Tumblr to express themselves. They’re part of a community and the content they create gets pushed and reblogged via Tumblr Dashboard. Most of the content is not fully original (that’s not to say there isn’t unique content on Tumblr or that the remixing itself isn’t highly creative, more so that if you look at Tumblr in its entirety – not just the popular hipster urls – it’s a lot of YouTube videos, imgur pics, etc. Not a judgment).

    Succinctly, Medium occupies the space in-between WordPress and Tumblr. A creative space that’s less complex than a CMS but more geared towards writing original medium-longform content than Tumblr.

    http://hunterwalk.com/2013/10/23/ev-williams-medium-is-blogging-for-the-9/

     
    • Ian Brown (@ianbrownmedia) 10:54 am on December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Hi Mark thanks for some useful insight in this piece, I had not come across the 1%-9%-90% rule on my travels, something more for me to explore.
      Ian

    • worriedteacher 11:38 am on December 26, 2013 Permalink

      I’m uncertain about Medium as a spacr for ‘continuous publication’. Do you have examples of good academic essaying on Medium?

    • Mark 4:03 pm on December 29, 2013 Permalink

      it’s not me who said it I hasten to add! that’s a quote from the linked url

    • Mark 4:03 pm on December 29, 2013 Permalink

      oh no sorry i’m not convinced it would be good for that. but i think it would be very useful for people deliberately writing for a broader audience on occasion, as opposed to publishing works in progress (etc) directed towards others in their field

  • Mark 1:01 pm on December 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Why Medium might be pretty great for academics 

    I just tried using Medium for the first time and I loved it. I suspect I won’t be alone in this. Here’s a few reasons why I think it’s a good fit for academic blogging:

    1. The interface is lovely. It does exactly what it claims to do and adopts an aesthetic which foregrounds what you’re writing. I’ve always seen the appeal in minimalistic interfaces for writing but never quite got to grips with them. There’s something about the Medium interface which really works for me (see screenshot below). It feels like writing in a really nice notebook using an ornate pen, with all the attentiveness this can engender. As opposed to WordPress which, in contrast, feels to me like scribbling for predominately practical purposes. These may be idiosyncratic reactions but I suspect they’re not entirely so. 
    2. The content ecosystem of Medium is setup to preclude the need for regular posting in order to build an audience. Not unlike a multi-author blog, the aggregation of content in one place brings the audience to Medium and users find your article through its submission to a range of curated thematic feeds or through it being ‘recommended’. In other words, articles circulate on their own merits. It’s possible to write very occasionally and yet gain an audience for what you’re written presuming the article itself is interesting and clear.
    3. It has the advantage of guest blogging, in that it avoids the need to build your own audience and blog regularly. But it’s more immediate and I suspect this will really appeal. You don’t have to discuss the idea with the editor. You don’t have to wait for a slot to come up in the posting schedules which most bigger blogs will have. You can self-publish instantaneously but without the need to collate an audience that other platforms impose.
    4. It has interesting metrics, offering stats in terms of views, reads, read ratio and recommendations. I need to look up how it calculates the reads. I suspect it works from time on page (given it automatically generates a ‘read time’ depending on length of the article) but it doesn’t say.

    Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 12.50.07

     
    • Tim McCormick (@tmccormick) 10:43 am on January 14, 2014 Permalink

      I agree @Medium is quite interesting, especially for rethinking experience from author’s side. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the centralization (vs eg people using diversely hosted & designed/featured blogs and open-source tools), and in particular by its manifesting of the larger. trend away from open comments/conversation.

      I tend to agree with something Mathew Ingram said, “A blog without comments is a soapbox.” (http://bit.ly/1dmftBK). Voices in isolation, not engaged with challenging or divergent views, is a key problem in our whole information environment (from personal to popular to academic, etc., I think).

      Nowadays I see many people accepting the idea that open commenting online is impossible or undesirable, that it inevitably succumbs to abuse. But most comment/forum systems are quite naively implemented and run, making little use of decades of accumulated knowledge we have about how to make them work. Also, there is increasing robustness and steady evolution in systems to implement/integrate commenting at large scale, such as Disqus, LiveFyre, IntenseDebate, and (integratively) Twitter, Google+ etc.

      Recently I’ve been impressed by how well LiveFyre, for example, can now pull in distributed Web/twitter conversations and display on an article. It is connecting me to conversations around my posts which I would never otherwise have known about.

      Extending current comment practices, I propose an #OpenComment model:
      1) allow commenting by Twitter (tweets get auto-associated with the post if they include its URL, are in reply chain of tweet that does, and perhaps by hashtag). This could include tools like Twitlonger that allow longer comments but still link/message via Twitter.
      2) Also allow commenting on-site via Twitter login. Start of or summary of comment gets tweeted, as with Twitlonger.
      3) Comments may be filtered by trust metrics derived from the Twitter accounts, such as account age, follow/follower ratio, tweets/follower ratio).
      4) System could extend to G+ and other soc-media networks, if they support it by API/arrangement, as with case of YouTube switching to G+.

      Commenting today may be often a mess. But another commenting world is possible.
      Tim


      Tim McCormick
      Palo Alto, California
      @tmccormick

    • Mark 7:39 pm on January 14, 2014 Permalink

      I think I understand that assumption about open commenting, though I don’t share it. I had to argue recently in favour of open commenting on a shared project. My point was the cultural message being sent by its absence, as opposed to any great loss to the site through the absence of comments. It’s since had very high quality substantive comments and I’ve revised my earlier scepticism!

      I’m quite taken with Disqus btw – thanks for suggesting it for sociologicalimagination.org. I’ll have a look at LiveFyre.

    • Mark 7:39 pm on January 14, 2014 Permalink

      I see what you’re driving at. Could it work though? I’m sceptical but remain open to being persuaded

  • Mark 1:27 pm on December 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: economy, , working poor   

    The uk economy can no longer create enough jobs that pay well enough to keep people off benefits 

    What is behind the rise of the working poor? As James Plunkett says, it makes for a lousy whodunit. No single factor is to blame. Much as you might want to point the finger at the government, at least some of the evidence shows that these are long-term trends that have been gathering pace for a while. The recession and the stagnation which followed simply gave them a boost. In-work poverty started increasing before the recession and it looks as though it will continue long into the recovery.

    It seems that our economy and, to be fair, those of a number of other western countries, can no longer create enough jobs that pay well enough to keep people off benefits. The stereotype of the work-shy dole scrounger is out of date. These days, someone poor and on benefits is more likely to come from one of those hardworking families the government keeps telling us about.

    http://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/the-rise-of-the-hardworking-poor/

     
    • robertotoole (@robertotoole) 1:55 pm on December 19, 2013 Permalink

      There’s another way of interpreting this, supporting an argument that is especially destructive to the Conservative orthodoxy on benefits: the benefits system and culture has developed as a massive form of State subsidy for otherwise inefficient service industries. It allows business to depend upon a flexible, low pay workforce. In this interpretation, the marginalised poor are not the products of failed Capitalism, they are a symbol of its success – that is to say, an expression of its unrelenting power over workers and government.

      Just for a laugh find yourself a Tory (the bottom half of any Daily Telegraph page is a good place to find them) and deploy this argument.

    • Mark 6:00 pm on December 22, 2013 Permalink

      I think it’s very plausible! This argument seemed to have suddenly entered into the mainstream in the US when there was a big outcry over Wallmart organising food drives for their (slightly better off) staff to donate to those who weren’t earning enough to feed themselves…

    • Mark 6:01 pm on December 22, 2013 Permalink

      “In this interpretation, the marginalised poor are not the products of failed Capitalism, they are a symbol of its success – that is to say, an expression of its unrelenting power over workers and government”

      and suddenly we’re faced with a neo-marxist spectacle of capitalism eating itself.

    • robertotoole (@robertotoole) 9:31 am on January 2, 2014 Permalink

      Or, following Deleuze and Guattari, Capitalism as always already a body-without-organs over-filled with mutant desires and assemblages – whatever next? We can’t read the dialectical runes. And there was no golden age (see this exercise in naivety by Douglas Carswell MP: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/douglascarswellmp/100252257/the-economy-is-growing-the-free-market-isnt-thats-worrying/ ).

    • Mark 11:04 am on January 2, 2014 Permalink

      I think it’s much more sinister than naivety! There seems to be a trend for anarcho-capitalist ideas to be gradually creeping into the thinking of the Tory right…

  • Mark 10:59 pm on December 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , digital sociologyd,   

    CfP: Death Online Research Symposium 

    CALL FOR PAPERS

    Death Online Research Symposium
    Wednesday April 9th – Thursday April 10th, 2014

    Durham University Centre for Death and Life Studies, Durham University, UK.

    Keynote speaker:  Professor Tony Walters, Director of the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, UK.

    As digital media have become an integral part of our everyday life, so have also death and our afterlife become inextricably interwoven with technology. Marking the formation of the international research network Death Online Research, this first Death Online Research Symposium will focus on current research into the digital mediation of dying, death, mourning and personal legacy, in order to explore and discuss how online connectivity is changing how, when and where we engage with death. We invite presentations within the following areas: online memorial sites; grief and social media; mobile technologies in graveyards; the digital afterlife; and digital inheritance. We welcome other relevant perspectives on the impacts digital technology has on the context of death in the 21st century.

    Paper abstracts of 400 words should be submitted to deathonline@itu.dk by January 5th, 2014.

    For further information, please visit http://www.deathonlineresearch.net.

     
  • Mark 7:55 pm on December 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Macklemore,   

    Vipassana 

    I was put here to do something before I’m lying in that casket
    I’d be lying on the beat if I said I didn’t know what that is
    The world’s a stage and we play a character, I found him
    It took me twenty-something years and a bunch of shitty soundchecks

     
  • Mark 8:16 pm on December 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Sexuality Summer School 26 – 30 May: Queer Anatomies 

    Sexuality Summer School 26 – 30 May: Queer Anatomies

    Public Events

    Monday 26 May – 12-2 – lunchtime public lecture: Professor Jasbir Puar (Rutgers)

    Monday 26 May – 6-8 – film screening at Cornerhouse: United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012) followed by Q&A with director Jim Hubbard and Dr.Monica Pearl (Manchester)

    Tuesday 27 May – 5-7 – public lecture: Professor Valerie Traub (Michigan and Simon Visiting Professorship, Manchester). Co-sponsored by SEXGEN northern network

    Wednesday 28 May – evening performance at Contact: Peggy Shaw in her new show: RUFF  (sponsored by Science, Stroke, Art as part of Action on Stroke Month)

    Thursday 29 May – 5-7 – public lecture: Professor Mary Bryson (University of British Columbia) and Chase Joynt (Chicago / tbc) on Queer Cancer  

    These public events accompany the Sexuality Summer School, a five-day event for postgraduates, organized by the Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture (CSSC) at the University of Manchester since 2008. The Sexuality Summer School brings together postgraduates, researchers and international scholars, and also artists and filmmakers, to facilitate dialogue and discussions that speak to contemporary debates in queer and feminist sexuality studies, with a particular emphasis on the interdisciplinary study of culture. In 2014, our focus will be on cultural theories and histories of anatomy.

    The Sexuality Summer School will also include workshops with Claudia Castañeda (Emerson), with Erika Alm and Kajsa Widegren (Gender Studies, Gothenburg) and members of CSSC at the University of Manchester, including: Jackie StaceyMonica PearlDavid AldersonDaniela Caselli and Laura Doan.

    All public events are open to everyone. The public lectures are free, and tickets for the Cornerhouse screening and Contact performance can be purchased online at cornerhouse.org and contactmcr.com.

    The Sexuality Summer School is sponsorship this year by the University of Manchester Faculty of Humanities, Cornerhouse, Contact, Manchester Pride, Stroke Association NW and SEXGEN.

    Registration for the Sexuality Summer School is open to all PhD and Masters students and will go live on 14 February 2014 at estore.manchester.ac.uk.

    For more information about the Sexuality Summer School, including details of previous events, go to sexualitysummerschool.wordpress.com, email us and get on the mailing list at sexualitysummerschool@gmail.com, find Sexuality Summer School on Facebook or tweet us @SSS_Manchester

     
  • Mark 4:53 pm on December 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    I am this rat. You are this rat. We are all this rat. 


    (video, as well as title, via Jezebel)

     
  • Mark 6:36 am on December 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    CfP: Social and Political Critique in the Age of Austerity 

    Social and Political Critique in the Age of Austerity
    A one day workshop at Keele University
    10.30am-6pm, Wednesday 12th February, 2014

    This one day workshop is devoted to the discussion of critical politics in the contemporary age of austerity.  Following the 2007 global economic crash, which led to a raft of government bank bail outs and nationalisations across America and Europe, a cunning ideological reversal took place – the crash was no longer the result of the hubris of the neoliberal financial sector, which had developed the idea of ‘riskless risk’ where reckless stock market speculation and the creation of value ex nihilo could produce endless profit, but rather the immoral wastefulness of the people and society.  According to this ideological position, which was advanced by governments across Europe, the welfare state, and in many respects society itself, was transformed into an ‘exorbitant privilege’ that was simply unaffordable.  In fact, in order to pay for their wastefulness the people were not only expected to give up their public services, but also required to accept ever lower wages, and a general state of social and economic precariousness.

    This is the current state of play across America and Europe, where the neoliberal state has exploited the crash in order to retrofit society for violent competition with Asian capitalism.  In the face of this race to the bottom, key thinkers such as David Graeber, Antonio Negri, Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, and Costas Douzinas have spoken out against the new form Naomi Klein calls neoliberal disaster capitalism and given voice to the protest, rebellion, and revolt taking place across the world.

    The objective of this workshop is to build upon the works of these key thinkers and explore the possibility for resistance in the age of austerity.  We invite contributions from a range of disciplines focused on diverse social and political contexts and a variety of theoretical perspectives.  Contributors may choose to focus on austerity and resistance across Europe, including the UK, Greece, Spain, and Italy; the Occupy movement; the media construction of austerity, including the idea of the undeserving poor who are seen to be living off public funds; methods for the organisation of resistance; the concept of the multitude and the digital commons; anti-capitalist thought; or transformative social and political theory and practice more generally.  Most importantly, we are keen to emphasise that this list is not exhaustive – the key principle behind the workshop is that debate should open up a space for social and political creativity. In this way we are keen to encourage potential contributors to be creative and explore new possibilities for political change in a historical period where change seems absolutely necessary, but also impossible to envisage. In this respect, we encourage contributions from a variety of participants – academics, post-graduate students, activists, and others engaged in thinking through the possibilities of change under conditions of crisis and austerity.

    The workshop will close with a lecture from Professor Costas Douzinas (Birkbeck), author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe.

    In order to take part in the event please send a 250 word abstract to Emma Head (e.l.head@keele.ac.uk), by Monday 23rd December.  This event is being organised jointly by Mark Featherstone (Keele Sociology) and Emma Head (Keele Sociology and the BSA Digital Sociology study group).   Registration will open in early January.  Confirmed speakers will be notified by 7th January.

     
  • Mark 6:36 am on December 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    CfP: Quantified Self Research Network, March 25th 

    The next meeting of the Quantified Self Research Network will take place on the 25th March at the University of Warwick from 1pm to 6pm. It’s an informal seminar to present work in progress and is open to all.

    If you would like to contribute then please send a short abstract and bio to mark@markcarrigan.net by February 1st. We use ‘quantified self’ in a broad sense inclusive of self-tracking, wearable computing and digital augmentation

    We’re also keen to build on the last seminar and move the discussion forward. Here are some of the key questions which emerged during the last meeting:

    What is distinctive about qs?

    People have tracked their health data for a long time such as keeping food diaries or measuring their weight. Is qs conceptually different to this or is it merely an automisation and intensification? Does the quantity of the data produced equate to more of the same or a qualitatively distinct phenomenon?

    Are there inequalities in qs and self-tracking?

    The technologies required for qs are usually quite expensive even for a basic device and would certainly be out of the range of disposable income for many people and…

    Are we creating inequalities with the focus of research?

    If qsers are a relatively privileged group while it may be interesting to understand their practices and development of individual and group identities there are other people who cannot afford these practices, are uninterested or simply unaware of them.

    What about gender?

    The QS community seems to have more men than women as active participants. What are the reasons for this? If we take the broader notion of qs suggested by some of the presenters then often the more “mundane” or “domestic” approaches to self-tracking are more associated with women? Is there something fundamentally different about these?

    How do we identify a ‘non-user’?

    Although some of the methods of tracking have been used for a long time some of them are very new and it is currently unclear what kind of uptake they will have. We fairly easily identify a user (agreeing on a definition may be more complex) it is more difficult to identify a non-user. Are they people who do not practice qs or use the devices because they do not have access to them, they are not aware of them or they simply do not care? Is it right to define people as non-users of a fairly niche activity often engaged in by relatively privileged people? But with the amount of data which is generated about us (often without us knowing) are we not all quantified whether we like it or not?

     
  • Mark 6:35 am on December 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    CfP: Digital Sociology PhD/ECR Workshop 

    Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher doing work in digital sociology? The BSA Digital Sociology Group has organised a PhD/ECR Workshop where a limited number of participants can get feedback on their work from peers and established academics in a supportive environment.

    The event will take place between 11am to 4pm on February 19th at Goldsmiths College in South London. Confirmed academic respondents are Emma Uprichard (Warwick) and Noortje Marres (Goldsmiths) with one or two more TBC soon.

    If you would like to register then please e-mail mark@markcarrigan.net with a short bio and 200 to 300 word abstract. The exact format of the day hasn’t been finalised yet but the intention will be to allow substantial time for discussion of each presentation so places will be extremely limited.

     
  • Mark 1:14 pm on December 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: handwriting, print, ruth ozeki,   

    Print is predictable and impersonal 

    Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye.

    Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.

    • Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being, pg 12
  •  
  • Mark 9:29 am on December 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Heidegger on Thinking 1.4 

    hIn this lecture Heidegger’s philosophical claims come to be made much more explicitly, leaving me on more comfortable territory than in previous lectures. In order to proceed with the broader project of the series, he turns to the question “what is this anyway – to form an idea, a representation?” (pg 39). In addressing this question he intends to “leave the field of philosophical speculation behind us, and first of all investigate carefully and scientifically how matters really stand with the ideas that occur in living beings, especially in men and animals” (pg 40). However to do this ‘scientifically’ does not mean that this will be a matter of ‘scientific findings’. Such findings are important and correct but they still, for Heidegger, ‘operate within a realm’ which we must leave behind in order to address the more fundamental question at stake. This is not done “in the proud delusion that we have all the answers, but out of discretion inspired by a lack of knowledge” (pg 41). So what is an idea? It comes from the Greek word ειδω meaning “to see, face, meet, be face-to-face” (pg 41). In contrary to the representational understanding which has long prevailed upon the ‘field of philosophical speculation’, such as would see ideas as things we have in our heads, Heidegger wishes to reclaim the meeting involved here:

    Instead we stand before a tree in bloom, for example – and the tree stands before us. The tree faces us. The tree and we meet one another, as the tree stands there and we stand face to face with it. As we are in this relation of one to the other and before the other, the tree and we are. This face-to-face meeting is not, then, one of these “ideas” buzzing around in our heads. (pg 41)

    In making this claim, argues Heidegger, we “have leapt, out of the familiar realm of science and even, as we shall see, out of the realm of philosophy”. But in doing so we do not find ourselves in “an abyss”. Rather we are on “firm soil”. This is “that soil upon which we live and die”. It is “the soil on which we really stand” (pg 41). What I take him to be saying here is that the representationalism dominant upon the ‘field of philosophical speculation’ is fundamentally grounded in a process of abstraction from our day-to-day existence. We live and die face-to-face with things, not locked inside private universes forever cut off from a cold world devoid of meaning. This does not entail a denial of our physiology, after all “many things may take place in our brain when we stand on a meadow and have standing before us a blossoming tree in all its radiance and fragrance” (pg 42), but it is rather to insist upon asking:

    While science records the brain currents, what becomes of the tree in bloom? What becomes of the meadow? What becomes of the man – not of the brain but of the man, who may die under our hands tomorrow and be lost to us, and who at one time came to our encounter? What becomes of the face-to-face, the meeting, the seeing, the forming of the idea, in which the tree presents itself and man comes to stand face-to-face with the tree?

    When ideas are formed in this way, a variety of things happen presumably also in what is described as the sphere of consciousness and regarded as pertaining to the soul. But does the tree stand “in our consciousness,” or does it stand on the meadow? Does the meadow lie in the soul, as experience, or is it spread out there on earth? Is the earth in our head? Or do we stand on the earth? (pg 42-43)

    The last question best conveys the essence of this: is the earth in our heads or do we stand on the earth? That question is perhaps the most concisely polemic affirmation of realism I’ve ever encountered. Returning to the example of the tree in bloom, Heidegger’s point is that we not “drop the tree in bloom, but for once let it stand where it stands”. Our thought “has never let the tree stands where it stands” (pg 44). This insistence that we recognise the being of things, our capacity to meet them as they stand, has implications for how Heidegger views scientific explanation which I’m unsure how I feel about:

    For we shall forfeit everything before we know it, once the sciences of physics, physiology , and psychology, not to forget scientific philosophy, display the panoply of their documents and proofs, to explain to us that what we see and accept is properly not a tree but in reality a void, thinly sprinkled with electric charges here and there that race hither and yon at enormous speeds. It will not do to admit, just for the scientifically unguarded moments, so to speak, that, naturally, we are standing face to face with a tree in bloom, only to affirm the very next moment as equally obvious that this view, naturally, typifies only the naive, because pre-scientific, comprehension of things. For with that affirmation we have conceded something whose consequences we have hardly considered, and that is: that those sciences do in face decide what of the tree in bloom may or may not be considered valid reality. Whence do the sciences – which necessarily are always in the dark about the origin of their own nature – derive the authority to pronounce such verdicts? Whence do the sciences derive the right to decide what man’s place is, and to offer themselves as the standard that justifies such decisions? (pg 45)

    Leaving aside my uncertainty about this passage for now, it seems that for Heidegger thinking involves a capacity for relatedness. We need to meet that which is thought-provoking so as to let it “stand where it stands”. The question “what is thinking?” is not an end in itself, rather it is a waymark we use to “remind ourselves of the way we are trying to walk” (pg 44). We are seeking to to take “our departure from a thinking whose essential nature seems to lie in the forming of ideas and to exhaust itself in that” (pg 45). This ‘traditional nature of thinking’, encompassing the formation of representational ideas about states of affairs, might be left behind if we “give particularly close attention to that stretch of way on which we are putting our feet” (pg 46).

     
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