AmSt 3920: Culture Wars' Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 8 most recent journal entries recorded in
AmSt 3920: Culture Wars' LiveJournal:
|Monday, April 21st, 2008|
Reading for Power
"The Master of the Temple asks, on seeing a slug: 'What is the purpose of this message from the Unseen? How shall I interpret this Word of God Most High?' The Magus thinks: 'How shall I use this slug?' And in this course he must persist."
- Crowley, Liber ABA.
Whenever I read something, whether for class or on my own, I remember the course of action Crowley describes above. To read for power, you have to formulate your will, and use that will to inform your reading of a text. "Why am I reading this? What do I want to get out of it?" The ultimate task is to use the text, but before you can use it you have to understand it. This goes for anything, not just reading. As much as you may want to drive to work, for example, you first have to understand the mechanics of the car in order to operate it. It isn't enough to like the car, or to reject the aethetics that informed the cars design (or even to object that the car's designers ignored alternative designs when building the car). You have to have a purpose in dealing with the car, understand how it works, and then use it to further your greater ends.
I mention this because, in the course of our class, the complaint has been made that such and such an author is "biased" and what not, which closes the discussion rather than open it up. The intention in making such a claim is never articulated, but the conversation-stopping result makes apparent the aim of the complaint. This, to me, reveals the lack of a formulated will on the part of some of our classmates, a reluctancy to understand the texts on their own terms, and consequently an inability to use the texts. Why are we reading these books? Is it because they have been assigned to us, because we are told to? On some level, yes; those are the circumstances of the situation. But, is it necessary to confine our experience with the text to that circumstance? I'm assigned the same reading as everyone else, but my objective in reading the texts is larger and more focused. I read the books we are assigned for power, to grow in my understanding of the topics discussed and use that understanding to my advantage where it has bearing on the real world. To have the deep, consequential, meaningful discussions I think we all want to have, we first have to individually determine why we are reading these books, make an effort to understand them, and then determine what we can get out of them. This is a "meta" approach to reading, as it involves operating on a plane above the mere process of reading the text.
Our course work is informed by a particular perspective, and each author brings his own perspective to bear on his account of history and historical processes. If we read for power, we can use even this perspective to understand and use the text. If we don't have a clear idea of why we are reading these books, don't make an effort to actually understand the books, and don't intend to use the books in any meaningful way, then we will continue to have the shallow, ataxic kind of discussions so common in our class. This doesn't mean we have to agree with the authors. Understanding does not imply agreement. But even attempts at criticism will be weak if that criticism of the text does not proceed from a place of understanding. For example, one criticism of today's chapter involved Phillips' alleged reduction of the fall of the Roman empire to religion. This is a weak criticism, which is refuted by the text itself. Religious problems are one of five reasons Phillips gives that were involved in the fall of the Roman empire. Further, Phillips spends a majority of his time discussing the role religious conviction plays in the problems he analyses because this is the purpose of his book. He makes it clear that the issues cannot be confined to their religious components, but says that religion is an (oft overlooked) component that needs to be addressed. Part of using the text may involve criticizing it, but when this criticism isn't informed by understanding of the text it will necessarily be weak. Are we criticizing the text to use the text, or to avoid the text? One of these tactics involves reading for power, the other is a reactionary disinclination to negotiate with the text on its own terms, twarting understanding.
We each have diverse reasons for taking this course. But, to get more out of the course than an emotional charge, we have to rise above a reactionary, shallow reading of the books we are assigned and read them for power.
|Friday, April 18th, 2008|
Monotheism and Its Secular Consequences
In our smaller group discussion today, my group talked a bit about how religion influenced politics. I thought some of you might be interested, in that vein, to read an essay I wrote for my Jewish studies class of last semester.
"Monotheism and Its Secular Consequences"
|Wednesday, April 16th, 2008|
|Wednesday, March 12th, 2008|
Tolerance and the War of Values
Today in "Culture Wars," we talked a bit about actions that exclude others from possibilities they may want to actualize. In particular, one student vented his frustration at last year's campus-wide strike. "We're all here for one reason, to get an education. What gives them the right to interfere with my education by going on strike?" I soaked in this sentiment, and thought about how the violence of values was playing itself out in the classroom.
Quotes for David
"The genuine coherence of our ideas does not come from the reasoning that ties them together, but from the spiritual impulse that gives rise to them."
- Nicolás Gómez Dávila.
"All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development – in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver."
- Carl Schmitt.
"People ultimately become
the image of their
values. Discover their ruling values, and their future is foretold."
- Anthony M. Ludovici.
"A transitional state then arises, through which the contemporary history of our world is passing. This transitional period betrays the fact the return of the former world is still hoped for, indeed still pursued, even though the presence of a new world of values has been detected and - albeit unwillingly - already acknowledged. This intermediate state, in which the historical peoples of the world must decide on their destruction or a new beginning, will last as long as the illusion persists that the historic future is still to be rescued from catastrophe by means of a compromise that will mediate between the old and new values."
- Martin Heidegger.
"The majority of the people in this world are ataxic; they cannot coordinate their mental muscles to make a purposed movement. They have no real will, only a set of wishes, many of which contradict others. The victim wobbles from one to the other (and it is no less wobbling because the movements may occasionally be very violent) and at the end of life the movements cancel each other out. Nothing has been achieved; except the one thing of which the victim is not conscious: the destruction of his own character, the confirming of indecision. Such an one is torn limb from limb by Choronzon."
- Aleister Crowley.
"Whoever sets up a value, takes a position against a disvalue by that very action. The boundless tolerance and the neutrality of standpoints and viewpoints turn themselves very quickly into their opposite, into enmity, as soon as enforcement is carried out in earnest."
- Carl Schmitt.
"Not only does conflict give rise to the essential; it preserves the essential in its permanence."
- Martin Heidegger.
"The aggressiveness is the logical consequence of the thetic and subjective essence of values and it renews itself continuously through their practical enactment."
- Carl Schmitt
"With that he disappears, and the Æthyr splits with a roar as of ten thousand thunders. And behold, The Arrow! The plumes of Maat are its crown, set about the disk. It is the Ateph crown of Thoth, and there is the shaft of burning light, and beneath there is a silver wedge.
"I shudder and tremble at the vision, for all about it are whorls and torrents of tempestuous fire. The stars of heaven are caught in the ashes of the flame. And they are all dark. That which was a blazing sun is like a speck of ash. And in the midst the Arrow burns!"
- Aleister Crowley.
"Because of the ambivalence of values, that aggressiveness will not cease to renew its virulence, whenever values as such are brought by actual people to bear upon other people as real as they."
- Carl Schmitt
"Heraclitus says (Fragment 53): 'Conflict is for all (that is present) the creator that causes to emerge, but (also) for all the dominant preserver. For it makes some to appear as gods, others as men; it creates (shows) some as slaves, others as freemen.'
named here is a conflict that prevailed prior to everything divine and human, not a war in the human sense. This conflict, as Heraclitus thought it, first caused the realm of being to separate into opposites; it first gave rise to position and order of rank. In such separation cleavages, intervals, distances, and joints opened. In the conflict <Aus-einandersetzung, setting-apart> a world comes into being. (Conflict does not split, much less destroy unity. It constitutes unity, it is a binding-together, logos
are the same.)"
- Martin Heidegger.
"Devotion projects the fine body, which is seized and vampirized by the demon masquerading as "Christ" or "Mary", or whoever may be the object of worship. Complete absence of all power to concentrate thought, to follow an argument, to formulate a Will, to hold fast to an opinion or a course of action, or even to keep a solemn oath, mark indelibly those who have thus lost parts of their souls. They wander from one new cult to another even crazier."
- Aleister Crowley.
|Monday, March 3rd, 2008|
Democracy and the Vote
"The principle of popular election is a fatal folly; its results are visible in every so-called democracy. The elected man is always the mediocrity; he is the safe man, the sound man, the man who displeases the majority less than any other; and therefore never the genius, the man of progress and illumination."
- Crowley, Liber CXCIV
Today in class we discussed the merits of democracy (representative democracy in particular). This lead to a discussion of the importance of the vote and who ought to be able to vote. Is it right that convicted felons are disenfranchised? Should voting rights be tied to some form of service (military or otherwise) to the State? Should there be some resurrected form of poll tax or test? Should there be a "voter license"? While there was no real agreement one way or the other on these potential solutions, one thing people did agree on was the importance of an educated electorate. The problem, it was generally agreed, was that voters were not educated on issues relevant to voting, and that some measure should be taken to ensure that voters are qualified (read: educated enough) to vote.
|Friday, February 29th, 2008|
Science and Power
One of the subjects we covered in my Scientific Thought class last semester was realism vs. antirealism, we we discussed over the course of a couple weeks. In one class, our professor described the epistemological antirealist position on scientific theories. "The antirealist," he said, "will say that these theories are models that may not tell us what the universe really is or how it really works, but that they are nevertheless useful for making predictions." I was reminded of a line from Crowley's Liber O
, "It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them." I raised my hand and asked whether the epistemological antirealist position (which Crowley seems to be taking in Liber O
) could be used to justify the study of astrology. I used astrology because it is something this particular professor likes to complain about, and has unfailingly done so in every class I've taken with him. "Wouldn't it be easy to say, 'Astrology is a model that may not tell us what the universe really is or how it really works, but it is nevertheless useful for making predictions'?" He seemed a little surprised, but rolled with the punch and countered, "Sure, the antirealist perspective could be misused that way. The question would then become 'what is useful?' Physics has allowed us to reliably develop amazing technologies. What has astrology done?" I, personally, am not as deeply interested in astrology as some of my friends are, but this exchange stuck with me nevertheless. In what "real world" way is astrology useful in the way modern physics is? What about any occult study or philosophy?
Welcome to the Culture Wars
I hope this group gets as much action as Scott Hall does every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. Feel free to continue or start conversations about not only what we're covering in class, but whatever else may be interesting to you in terms of philosophy, politics, or culture.