September 25, 2017

The Inheritance

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 9:05 am

“What is inherited from others can be nothing but egg shells. We should treat the fact of their presence with indulgence, but they will not give us spiritual nourishment”

Ludwig Wittgenstein

September 12, 2017

Alain on what has been revealed

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:06 am

“The modern error, which occupies something like four thousand volumes, is the attempt to find out if religion actually was revealed, and where and when, and by what evidence we know it. It seems, according to an inverted piety, which is in fact impiety, that the revealed idea will be true only insofar as it can be established that the precise circumstances under which it was revealed were real, and exactly as they have been reported. This proof cannot be produced, because every proof of existence is a proof of experience, and there can be no experience of the past. But there is more to be said. No one asks if the trees really went in search of a king; no one asks if the fox really spoke to the crow. It is a question of a fresh understanding of the idea that lives in the story. If we learn from the story, then it is true in the way that stories can be true. Whether or not I know that Homer existed, it does not alter the beauties of the Iliad, or what knowledge of the gods and of himself a man can draw from the poem. Jesus denounced the pharisee; I recognize myself in that image; I judge myself; this manner of speaking is driven into me, it pierces me like an arrow. I hope to escape by first examining the problem of whether or not Jesus really said that, telling myself that if Jesus never lived, what he said might well be false. This is a delaying tactic. It is a diversion whose purpose may be to make religion inoffensive, I mean for those who practice it. Our beliefs are rarely based on evidence; the mind is simply bemused by this kind of criticism. But the whited spulcher is something real, and so is Pharasaism; what matters is not whether these things are true but hows they are true. And if Jesus taught that one cannot have royal power, through armies and money, and at the same time save one’s soul, what needs to be examined is not whether Jesus said this on such and such a day, but whether what he said is true. It is very true that we must believe, that we must start from belief, and hold to it, and always return to it; it is very true also that we must think about what we believe; that is what thought it. Comte often meditated on a particular sentence from the Imitation: “Intelligence must follow faith, never precede it, and never break with it.” This maxim, which the readers is already prepared to accept, instead of being scared off by it, will become clearer if we examine the well-known parable of the fig tree.

Jesus hungered, and he came upon a fig tree in the way; but there were no figs on it; it was not the season for figs. Thereupon he cursed the tree, and it withered and died. This is unacceptable; and our exegete immediately tries to find out what witless copyist or misinformed letters might be responsible for the remark that it was not the season for figs. But repeated experience has taught me never to change a text before I have tried seriously to understand it. For this difficulty disturbs me, and from what disturbs me I have often drawn great and important ideas, which my slack and abstract thought might otherwise have overlooked. And this, I claim, is a pious attitude, pious in the true sense; not because I promise to accept the absurd, but because I attempt to overcome the appearance of absurdity, which I obviously cannot do if I correct it first. My method proved sound in this case. For I told myself that, if it was not the season of figs, then it is also not a question of the fig tree, but of myself and my human brothers. I immediately started looking for human fig trees, and I did not have to look far. Not long ago a man said, speaking of the war, that that was not the season for figs, that is, for justice and truth, but that the season had now come. And others say, more simply, that the office is closed, that the unfortunate person will have to come back tomorrow; or, better still, that there are no funds available. To all of this there is no reply, for it is external necessity that commands, or, if we look closely, the order of power, the order of Caesar, which always invokes and always will invoke necessity against justice. Not right now, I haven’t got time, circumstances are stronger than you and I. Let us wait for the season of the figs, that is, for sunlight and water. These people excuse themselves as the innocent fig tree might have done. And in a flash the curse comes over me. Is it not always because of circumstances that we put off repaying a debt? And is it by circumstances that the unfortunate Jean Valjean tries to prove to himself that he need not go to Arras to give himself up and save Champmathieu. But, says the Lord, are you fig trees, who receive everything from outside, and produce only under the right conditions? Or are you men, who know yourselves and even will yourselves to be free to distribute the reserves of your being as your own spirit dictates? Who renounces this privilege? Pilate, the great prefect, renounces it; his spirit washes its hands like the fig tree. Would he renounce it absolutely, expressly? I don’t know. But I call him Lord who violently reminds us that the principal crime, perhaps the only crime, is to renounce in oneself the condition of being human. This Lord is demanding; Jean Valjean listens to him, and follows him, without asking if this Lord who is right was born before or after some other man, or if he was born at all. For it is easy to say that we could all live like administrative fig trees, always acting by the calendar and according to the edict of things, or of Caesar, and that this kind of life might even be pleasant, were it not for Jesus. What Jesus has said cannot be taken back; what has once been revealed cannot be withdrawn.”

The Gods
(les dieux)
translated by Richard Pevear
Quartet Encounters

September 10, 2017

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:52 pm


August 30, 2017

Ivan Illich – Rebirth of Epimethean Man

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 1:59 pm

Screen shot 2017-09-20 at 1.34.53 PM

Our society resembles the ultimate machine which I once saw in a New York toy shop. It was a metal casket which, when you touched a switch, snapped open to reveal a mechanical hand. Chromed fingers reached out for the lid, pulled it down, and locked it from the inside. It was a box; you expected to be able to take something out of it; yet all it contained was a mechanism for closing the cover. This contraption is the opposite of Pandora’s “box.”

The original Pandora, the All-Giver, was an Earth goddess in prehistoric matriarchal Greece. She let all ills escape from her amphora (pythos). But she closed the lid before Hope could escape. The history of modern man begins with the degradation of Pandora’s myth and comes to an end in the self-sealing casket. It is the history of the Promethean endeavor to forge institutions in order to corral each of the rampant ills. It is the history of fading hope and rising expectations.

To understand what this means we must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. Hope, in its strong sense, means trusting faith in the goodness of nature, while expectation, as I will use it here, means reliance on results which are planned and controlled by man. Hope centers desire on a person from whom we await a gift. Expectation looks forward to satisfaction from a predictable process which will produce what we have the right to claim. The Promethean ethos has now eclipsed hope.

Survival of the human race depends on its rediscovery as a social force.

The original Pandora was sent to Earth with a jar which contained all ills; of good things, it contained only hope. Primitive man lived in this world of hope. He relied on the munificence of nature, on the handouts of gods, and on the instincts of his tribe to enable him to subsist. Classical Greeks began to replace hope with expectations. In their version of Pandora she released both evils and goods. They remembered her mainly for the ills she had unleashed. And, most significantly, they forgot that the All-Giver was also the keeper of hope.

The Greeks told the story of two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus. The former warned the latter to leave Pandora alone. Instead, he married her. In classical Greece the name “Epimetheus,” which means “hindsight,” was interpreted to mean “dull” or “dumb.” By the time Hesiod retold the story in its classical form, the Greeks had become moral and misogynous patriarchs who panicked at the thought of the first woman. They built a rational and authoritarian society. Men engineered institutions through which they planned to cope with the rampant ills. They became conscious of their power to fashion the world and make it produce services they also learned to expect. They wanted their own needs and the future demands of their children to be shaped by their artifacts. They became lawgivers, architects, and authors, the makers of constitutions, cities, and works of art to serve as examples for their offspring. Primitive man had relied on mythical participation in sacred rites to initiate individuals into the lore of society, but the classical Greeks recognized as true men only those citizens who let themselves be fitted by paideIa (education) into the institutions their elders had planned.

The developing myth reflects the transition from a world in which dreams were interpreted to a world in which oracles were made. From immemorial time, the Earth Goddess had been worshipped on the slope of Mount Parnassus, which was the center and navel of the Earth. There, at Delphi (from deiphys, the womb), slept Gaia, the sister of Chaos and Eros. Her son, Python the dragon, guarded her moonlit and dewy dreams, until Apollo the Sun God, the architect of Troy, rose from the east, slew the dragon, and became the owner of Gaia’s cave. His priests took over her temple. They employed a local maiden, sat her on a tripod over Earth’s smoking navel, and made her drowsy with fumes. They then rhymed her ecstatic utterances into hexameters of self-fulfilling prophecies. From all over the Peloponnesus men brought their problems to Apollo’s sanctuary. The oracle was consulted on social options, such as measures to be taken to stop a plague or a famine, to choose the right constitution for Sparta or the propitious sites for cities which later became Byzantium and Chalcedon. The never-erring arrow became Apollo’s symbol. Everything about him became purposeful and useful.

In the Republic, describing the ideal state, Plato already excludes popular music. Only the harp and Apollo’s lyre would be permitted in towns because their harmony alone creates “the strain of necessity and the strain of freedom, the strain of the unfortunate and the strain of the fortunate, the strain of courage and the strain of temperance which befit the citizen.” City-dwellers panicked before Pan’s flute and its power to awaken the instincts. Only “the shepherds may play [Pan’s] pipes and they only in the country.”

Man assumed responsibility for the laws under which he wanted to live and for the casting of the environment into his own image. Primitive initiation by Mother Earth into mythical life was transformed into the education (paideia) of the citizen who would feel at home in the forum.

To the primitive the world was governed by fate, fact, and necessity. By stealing fire from the gods, Prometheus turned facts into problems, called necessity into question, and defied fate. Classical man framed a civilized context for human perspective. He was aware that he could defy fate-nature-environment, but only at his own risk. Contemporary man goes further; he attempts to create the world in his image, to build a totally man-made environment, and then discovers that he can do so only on the condition of constantly remaking himself to fit it. We now must face the fact that man himself is at stake.

Life today in New York produces a very peculiar vision of what is and what can be, and without this vision life in New York is impossible. A child on the streets of New York never touches anything which has not been scientifically developed, engineered, planned, and sold to someone. Even the trees are there because the Parks Department decided to put them there. The jokes the child hears on television have been programmed at a high cost. The refuse with which he plays in the streets of Harlem is made of broken packages planned for somebody else. Even desires and fears are institutionally shaped. Power and violence are organized and managed: the gangs versus the police. Learning itself is defined as the consumption of subject matter, which is the result of researched, planned, and promoted programs. Whatever good there is, is the product of some specialized institution. It would be foolish to demand something which some institution cannot produce. The child of the city cannot expect anything which lies outside the possible development of institutional process. Even his fantasy is prompted to produce science fiction. He can experience the poetic surprise of the unplanned only through his encounter with “dirt,” blunder, or failure: the orange peel in the gutter, the puddle in the street, the breakdown of order, program, or machine are the only take-offs for creative fancy. “Goofing off” becomes the only poetry at hand.

Since there is nothing desirable which has not been planned, the city child soon concludes that we will always be able to design an institution for our every want. He takes for granted the power of process to create value. Whether the goal is meeting a mate, integrating a neighborhood, or acquiring reading skills, it will be defined in such a way that its achievement can be engineered. The man who knows that nothing in demand is out of production soon expects that nothing produced can be out of demand. If a moon vehicle can be designed, so can the demand to go to the moon. Not to go where one can go would be subversive. It would unmask as folly the assumption that every satisfied demand entails the discovery of an even greater unsatisfied one. Such insight would stop progress. Not to produce what is possible would expose the law of “rising expectations” as a euphemism for a growing frustration gap, which is the motor of a society built on the coproduction of services and increased demand.

The state of mind of the modern city-dweller appears in the mythical tradition only under the image of Hell: Sisyphus, who for a while had chained Thanatos (death), must roll a heavy stone up the hill to the pinnacle of Hell, and the stone always slips from his grip just when he is about to reach the top. Tantalus, who was invited by the gods to share their meal, and on that occasion stole their secret of how to prepare all-healing ambrosia, which bestowed immortality, suffers eternal hunger and thirst standing in a river of receding waters, overshadowed by fruit trees with receding branches. A world of ever-rising demands is not just evil-it can be spoken of only as Hell.

Man has developed the frustrating power to demand anything because he cannot visualize anything which an institution cannot do for him. Surrounded by all-powerful tools, man is reduced to a tool of his tools. Each of the institutions meant to exorcise one of the primeval evils has become a fail-safe, self-sealing coffin for man. Man is trapped in the boxes he makes to contain the ills Pandora allowed to escape. The blackout of reality in the smog produced by our tools has enveloped us. Quite suddenly we find ourselves in the darkness of our own trap.

Reality itself has become dependent on human decision. The same President who ordered the ineffective invasion of Cambodia could equally well order the effective use of the atom. The “Hiroshima switch” now can cut the navel of the Earth. Man has acquired the power to make Chaos overwhelm both Eros and Gaia. This new power of man to cut the navel of the Earth is a constant reminder that our institutions not only create their own ends, but also have the power to put an end to themselves and to us. The absurdity of modern institutions is evident in the case of the military. Modern weapons can defend freedom, civilization, and life only by annihilating them. Security in military language means the ability to do away with the Earth.

The absurdity that underlies nonmilitary institutions is no less manifest. There is no switch in them to activate their destructive power, but neither do they need a switch. Their grip is already fastened to the lid of the world. They create needs faster than they can create satisfaction, and in the process of trying to meet the needs they generate, they consume the Earth. This is true for agriculture and manufacturing, and no less for medicine and education. Modern agriculture poisons and exhausts the soil. The “green revolution” can, by means of new seeds, triple the output of an acre–but only with an even greater proportional increase of fertilizers, insecticides, water, and power. Manufacturing of these, as of all other goods, pollutes the oceans and the atmosphere and degrades irreplaceable resources. If combustion continues to increase at present rates, we will soon consume the oxygen of the atmosphere faster than it can be replaced. We have no reason to believe that fission or fusion can replace combustion without equal or higher hazards. Medicine men replace midwives and promise to make man into something else: genetically planned, pharmacologically sweetened, and capable of more protracted sickness. The contemporary ideal is a pan-hygienic world: a world in which all contacts between men, and between men and their world, are the result of foresight and manipulation. School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man s trap. It is sup-posed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorably we cultivate, treat, produce, and school the world out of existence.

The military institution is evidently absurd. The absurdity of nonmilitary institutions is more difficult to face. It is even more frightening, precisely because it operates inexorably. We know which switch must stay open to avoid an atomic holocaust. No switch detains an ecological Armageddon.

In classical antiquity, man had discovered that the world could be made according to man’s plans, and with this insight he perceived that it was inherently precarious, dramatic and comical. Democratic institutions evolved and man was presumed worthy of trust within their framework. Expectations from due process and confidence in human nature kept each other in balance. The traditional professions developed and with them the institutions needed for their exercise.

Surreptitiously, reliance on institutional process has replaced dependence on personal good will. The world has lost its humane dimension and reacquired the factual necessity and fatefulness which were characteristic of primitive times. But while the chaos of the barbarian was constantly ordered in the name of mysterious, anthropomorphic gods, today only man’s planning can be given as a reason for the world being as it, is. Man has become the plaything of scientists, engineers, and planners.

We see this logic at work in ourselves and in others. I know a Mexican village through which not more than a dozen cars drive each day. A Mexican was playing dominoes on the new hard-surface road in front of his house–where he had probably played and sat since his youth. A car sped through and killed him. The tourist who reported the event to me was deeply upset, and yet he said: “The man had it coming to him.”

At first sight, the tourist’s remark is no different from the statement of some primitive bushman reporting the death of a fellow who had collided with a taboo and had therefore died. But the two statements carry opposite meanings. The primitive can blame some tremendous and dumb transcendence, while the tourist is in awe of the inexorable logic of the machine. The primitive does not sense responsibility; the tourist senses it, but denies it. In both the primitive and the tourist the classical mode of drama, the style of tragedy, the logic of personal endeavor and rebellion is absent. The primitive man has not become conscious of it, and the tourist has lost it. The myth of the Bushman and the myth of the American are made of inert, inhuman forces. Neither experiences tragic rebellion. For the Bushman, the event follows the laws of magic; for the American, it follows the laws of science. The event puts him under the spell of the laws of mechanics, which for him govern physical, social, and psychological events.

The mood of 1971 is propitious for a major change of direction in search of a hopeful future. Institutional goals continuously contradict institutional products. The poverty program produces more poor, the war in Asia more Vietcong, technical assistance more underdevelopment. Birth control clinics increase survival rates and boost the population; schools produce more dropouts; and the curb on one kind of pollution usually increases another.

Consumers are faced with the realization that the more they can buy, the more deceptions they must swallow. Until recently it seemed logical that the blame for this pandemic inflation of dysfunctions could be laid either on the limping of scientific discovery behind the technological demands or on the perversity of ethnic, ideological, or class enemies. Both the expectations of a scientific millennium and of a war to end all wars have declined.

For the experienced consumer, there is no way back to a na•ve reliance on magical technologies. Too many people have had bad experiences with neurotic computers, hospital-bred infections, and jams wherever there is traffic on the road, in the air, or on the phone. Only ten years ago conventional wisdom anticipated a better life based on an increase in scientific discovery. Now scientists frighten children. The moon shots provide a fascinating demonstration that human failure can be almost eliminated among the operators of complex systems-yet this does not allay our fears that the human failure to consume according to instruction might spread out of control.

For the social reformer there is no way back, either, to the assumptions of the forties. The hope has vanished that the problem of justly distributing goods can be sidetracked by creating an abundance of them. The cost of the minimum package capable of satisfying modern tastes has skyrocketed, and what makes tastes modern is their obsolescence prior even to satisfaction.

The limits of the Earth’s resources have become evident. No breakthrough in science or technology could provide every man in the world with the commodities and services which are now available to the poor of rich countries. For instance, it would take the extraction of one hundred times the present amounts of iron, tin, copper, and lead to achieve such a goal, with even the “lightest” alternative technology.

Finally, teachers, doctors, and social workers realize that their distinct professional ministrations have one aspect-at least-in common. They create further demands for the institutional treatments they provide, faster than they can provide service institutions.

Not just some part, but the very logic, of conventional wisdom is becoming suspect. Even the laws of economy seem unconvincing outside the narrow parameters which apply to the social, geographic area where most of the money is concentrated. Money is, indeed, the cheapest currency, but only in an economy geared to efficiency measured in monetary terms. Both capitalist and Communist countries in their various forms are committed to measuring efficiency in cost-benefit ratios expressed in dollars. Capitalism flaunts a higher standard of living as its claim to superiority. Communism boasts of a higher growth rate as an index of its ultimate triumph. But under either ideology the total cost of increasing efficiency increases geometrically. The largest institutions compete most fiercely for resources which are not listed in any inventory: the air, the ocean, silence, sunlight, and health. They bring the scarcity of these resources to public attention only when they are almost irremediably degraded. Everywhere nature becomes poisonous, society inhumane, and the inner life is invaded and personal vocation smothered.

A society committed to the institutionalization of values identifies the production of goods and services with the demand for such. Education which makes you need the product is included in the price of the product. School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. In such a society marginal value has become constantly self-transcendent. It forces the few largest consumers to compete for the power to deplete the earth, to fill their own swelling bellies, to discipline smaller consumers, and to deactivate those who still find satisfaction in making do with what they have. The ethos of nonsatiety is thus at the root of physical depredation, social polarization, and psychological passivity.

When values have been institutionalized in planned and engineered processes, members of modern society believe that the good life consists in having institutions which define the values that both they and their society believe they need. Institutional value can be defined as the level of output of an institution. The corresponding value of man is measured by his ability to consume and degrade these institutional outputs, and thus create a new-even higher-demand. The value of institutionalized man depends on his capacity as an incinerator. To use an image–he has become the idol of his handiworks. Man now defines himself as the fur-nace which burns up the values produced by his tools. And there is no limit to his capacity. His is the act of Prometheus carried to an extreme.

The exhaustion and pollution of the earth’s resources is, above all, the result of a corruption in man’s self-image, of a regression in his consciousness. Some would like to speak about a mutation of collective consciousness which leads to a conception of man as an organism dependent not on nature and individuals, but rather on institutions. This institutionalization of substantive values, this belief that a planned process of treatment ultimately gives results desired by the recipient, this consumer ethos, is at the heart of the Promethean fallacy.

Efforts to find a new balance in the global milieu depend on the deinstitutionalization of values.

The suspicion that something is structurally wrong with the vision of homo faber is common to a growing minority in capitalist, Communist, and “underdeveloped” countries alike. This suspicion is the shared characteristic of a new elite. To it belong people of all classes, incomes, faiths, and civilizations. They have ‘become wary of the myths of the majority: of scientific utopias, of ideological diabolism, and of the expectation of the distribution of goods and services with some degree of equality. They share with the majority the sense of being trapped. They share with the majority the awareness that most new policies adopted by broad consensus consistently lead to results which are glaringly opposed to their stated aims. Yet whereas the Promethean majority of would-be spacemen still evades the structural issue, the emergent minority is critical of the scientific deus ex mach ina, the ideological panacea, and the hunt for devils and witches. This minority begins to formulate its suspicion that our constant deceptions tie us to contemporary institutions as the chains bound Prometheus to his rock. Hopeful trust and classical irony (eironeia) must conspire to expose the Promethean fallacy.

Prometheus is usually thought to mean “foresight,” or sometimes even “he who makes the North Star progress.” He tricked the gods out of their monopoly of fire, taught men to use it in the forging of iron, became the god of technologists, and wound up in iron chains.

The Pythia of Delphi has now been replaced by a computer which hovers above panels and punch cards. The hexameters of the oracle have given way to sixteen-bit codes of instructions. Man the helmsman has turned the rudder over to the cybernetic machine. The ultimate machine emerges to direct our destinies. Children phantasize flying their spacecrafts away from a crepuscular earth.

From the perspectives of the Man on the Moon, Prometheus could recognize sparkling blue Gaia as the planet of Hope and as the Arc of Mankind. A new sense of the finiteness of the Earth and a new nostalgia now can open man’s eyes to the choice of his brother Epimetheus to wed the Earth with Pandora.

At this point the Greek myth turns into hopeful prophecy because it tells us that the son of Prometheus was Deucalion, the Helmsman of the Ark who like Noah outrode the Flood to become the father of a new mankind which he made from the earth with Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. We are gaining insight into the meaning of the Pythos which Pandora brought from the gods as being the inverse of the Box: our Vessel and Ark.

We now need a name for those who value hope above expectations. We need a name for those who love people more than products, those who believe that

No people are uninteresting.

Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them is not particular,

and planet is dissimilar from planet.

We need a name for those who love the earth on which each can meet the other,

And if a man lived in obscurity

making his friends in that obscurity,

obscurity is not uninteresting.

We need a name for those who collaborate with their Promethean brother in the lighting of the fire and the shaping of iron, but who do so to enhance their ability to tend and care and wait upon the other, knowing that

to each his world is private,

and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute.

These are private.*

I suggest that these hopeful brothers and sisters be called Epimethean men.

· The three quotations are from “”People”‘ from the book Selected Poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Translated and with Introduction

by Robin Milner Gulland and Peter Levi. Published by E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1962, and reprinted with their permission.


Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926. He studied theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a Ph.D. in history at the University of Salzburg. He came to the United States in 1951, where he served as assistant pastor in an Irish-Puerto Rican parish in New York City. From 1956 to 1960 he was assigned as vice-rector to the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he organized an intensive training center for American priests in Latin American culture. Illich was a co-founder of the widely known and controversial Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and since 1964 he has directed research seminars on “Institutional Alternatives in a Technological Society,” with special focus on Latin America. Ivan Illich’s writings have appeared in The New York Review, The Saturday Review, Esprit, Kuvsbuch, Siempre, America, Commonweal, Epreuves, and Tern PS Modernes.

first published here: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/chap7.html

August 15, 2017

Hannah Arendt

Filed under: dick tuinder,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:21 pm


Cyclonopedia on openness

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 1:37 pm

If the so-called despotic institutions of the Middle East have survived liberalism, and have grown stronger instead of being shattered into miseable pieces long ago, it is because openness can never be extracted from the inside of the system or through a mere voluntary or subjective desire for being open. Openness can never be communication by liberalism (not to mention the free world).

Human history is an experimental research proess in designing and establishing modes of openness to the outside. Openness is not ultiately, so to speak, the affair of humans, but rather the affair of the outside – everything minus the human, even the human’s own body. But opennness is not only associated with human history. Parsani argues that the Earth, as the arch-puppeteer and occult-manipulator of planetary events, has a far more sophisticated openness of its own. If the human is the subject of openness or the one who opens himself to his outside, then the Earth is the ‘inside-out subject’ of human openness. Undoubtedly, human openness is full of twists. This includes social openness, gender communications, and openness between populations and governments of the contemporary world, whether cultural or petrological. Parsani shows that human openness has a strategic and tisted spirit for which every communication is a tactic and every openness is a strategy to be unfolded … It is difficult to study the politics, culture and economy of the world without questioning its issues and concerns regarding the ethics of openness.

Openness comes from the Outside, not the other way round. Nietzschean affirmation was never intended to support liberation or even to be about openness at all. It was an invocation of the outside, in its exteriority to the humand and even to the human’s openness (which includes desires for being open to the outside). Radical openness has nothing to do with the cancelation of closure; it is a matter of terminating all traces of parsimony and grotesque domestication that exist in so-called emancipatory human openness. The blade of radical openness thirsts to butcher economical openness, or any openness constructed on the affordability of both the subject and its environment. The target of radical openness is not closure but economical openness. Radical openness devours all economic and political grounds based on ‘being open’.

While the subject of the economical openness manifests itself in the statement ‘I am open to’, the objective of the openness is what ‘being open to’ aims at. Economical openness is constantly maintained by these two poles which must afford each other. For an entity, the act of opening to its environment is only possible if the environment has already afforded the entity within its environing range, and if the entity itself is able to accommodate part of the environment within its capacity. The capacity of the entity is directly influenced by the subjective survival of that entity. For this reason, so-called (economical) openness represents the affordability and the survival capacity of its subjects, not the act of openining itself.

‘I am open to you’ can be recapitulated as ‘I have the capacity to bear your investment’ or ‘I can afford you’. This conservative voice is not associated with will or intention, but with the inevitability of affordance as a mesophilic bond, and with the survival economy and the logic of capacity. If you exceed the capacity by which you can be afforded, I will be cracked, lacerated and laid open. Despite its dedication to repression, its blind desire for the onopoloy of survival and the authoritarian logic of the boundary, the plane of ‘being open to’ has never been openly associated with paranoia or regression. Suchh is the irony of liberalism and anthropomorphic desire.

However, while affirmation is tactically nurtured by affordance, it is also a stealth strategy to call and to bring forth Epedemic Openness whose eventuation is necessarily equal to the abortion of economical or human openness. As far as survival is concerned, radical openness always brings with it base-participation, contamination and pandemic horror, the horror of the outside emerging from within as an outonomous xeno-chemical Insider and from without as the unmasterable Outsider. In any case, radical openness is internally connected to unreported plagues. If affordance is the mesophilic extension between subjective and objective fronts of communication, the outside is defined by the exteriority of function rather than distance. If affirmation is ultimately strategic, this is because epidemic openness is inherent to the repression of the outside and the suspension of its influences. In a polytical twist, epidemic openness craves for solid states, manifest closures such as dwelling and subsistence and survival economy. Conforming to the secrecy and the conspiracist ethos of affordance, for which every tactic is another line of expansion (to afford more), radical openness requires strategic calls or lines of subvervions from within affordance. Radical openness, therefore, subverst the logic of capacity from within. Frequently referred to as sorcerous lines, awakenings, summonings, xeno-attractions and trigggers, strategic approaches unfold radical openness as an internal cut – gaseous, odorless, with metallic wisdom of a scalpel. Openness emerges as radical butchery from within and without. If the anatomist cuts from top to bottom so as to examine the body hierarchically as a transcendental dissection, the the katatomy of openness does not cut anatomically or penetrate structurally (performing the logic of strata); it butchers open in all directions, in correspondence with its strategic plane of activity. Openness is not suicide, for it lures survival itself into life itself where ‘to live’ is a systematic redundancy. Since the Outside in its radical exteriority is everywhere, it only needs to be aroused to rush in and erase the illusion of economical appropriations or closure. Openness is a war, it needs strategies to work. Openness is not the anthropomorpic desire to be open, it is the being opened eventuated by the act of opening itself. To be butchered, lacerated, cracked and laid open – such is the corporeal reaction of subjects to the radical act of opening. Accordingly, affirmation is a camouglaged strategy, a vehicle for cutting through affordance and creatively reinventing openness as a radical butchery.

August 8, 2017

Molyneaux’s problem

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 12:51 pm


‘A Man, being born blind, and having a Globe and a Cube, nigh of the same bignes, Committed into his Hands, and being taught or Told, which is Called the Globe, and which the Cube, so as easily to distinguish them by his Touch or Feeling; Then both being taken from Him, and Laid on a Table, Let us Suppose his Sight Restored to Him; Whether he Could, by his Sight, and before he touch them, know which is the Globe and which the Cube? Or Whether he Could know by his Sight, before he stretch’d out his Hand, whether he Could not Reach them, tho they were Removed 20 or 1000 feet from Him?’

Dick Tuinder on timeless cinema

Filed under: dick tuinder,film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:20 am

Screen shot 2017-08-08 at 11.18.54 AM

Alain Badiou on being blind

Filed under: philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:27 am

Any real movement, especially when its blind mission is to reopen History, maintains that what is merely visible should not be considered genuinely given; that one should know how to be blind to the self-evidence of representation so as to have confidence in what is happening, what is being said, here and now, about the Revolution and its implementaiton.

August 7, 2017

Gilles Deleuze on cinema after the cinematic

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 7:23 pm


This is the stage where art no longer beautifies or spiritualizes Nature but competes with it: the world is lost, the world itself “turns to film,” any film at all, and this is what television amounts to, the world turning to any film at all, and, as you say here, “nothing happening to human beings any more,but everything happening only to images.” One might also say that bodies in Nature or people in a landscape are replaced by brains in a city: the screen’s no longer a window or door (behind which . . . ) nor a frame orsurface (in which . . . ) but a computer screen on which images as “data” slip around. How, though, can we still talk of art, if the world itself is turning cinematic, becoming ‘just an act” directly controlled and immediately-processed by a television that excludes any supplementary function?

Cinema ought to stop “being cinematic,” stop play acting, and set up specificrelationships with video, with electronic and digital images, in order to develop a new form of resistance and combat the televisual function of surveillance and control. It’s not a question of short-circuiting television-how could that be possible?-but of preventing television subverting or short-circuiting the extension of cinema into the new types of image. For, as you show, “since television has scorned, marginalized, repressed the potential of video-its only chance of taking over from the postwar modern cinema . . . taking over its urge to take images apart and put them back together, its break with theater, its new way of seeing the human body, bathed in images and soundsone has to hope the development of video art will itself threaten TV. ” Here we see in outline the new art of City and Brain, of competing with Nature. And one can already see in this mannerism many different directions or paths, some blocked, others leading tentatively forward, offering great hopes. A mannerism of video “previsualization” in Coppola, where images are already assembled without a camera. And then a completely different mannerism, with its strict, indeed austere, method in Syberberg, where puppetry and front-projection produce an image unfolding against a background of images. Is this the same world we see in pop videos, special effects, and footage from space?Maybe pop video, up to the point where it lost its dreamlike quality, might have played some part in the pursuit of “new associations” proposed by Syberberg, might have traced out the new cerebral circuits of a cinema of the future, if it hadn’t immediately been taken over by marketing jingles, sterile patterns of mentaldeficiency, intricately controlled epileptic fits (rather as, in the previous period cinema was taken over by the “then hysterical spectacle” of large-scale propaganda . . . ). And maybe space footage might also have played a part in aesthetic and noetic creation, if it had managed to produce some last reason for traveling, as Burroughs suggested, if it had managed to break free from the control of a “regular guy on the Moon who didn’t forget to bring along his prayer book,” and better understood the endlessly rich example of La Region Centrale, where Michael Snow devises a very austere way of making one image turn on another, and untamed nature on art, pushing cinema to the limit of a pure Spatium. And how can we tell where the experimentation with images, sounds, and music that’s just beginning in the work of Resnais, Godard, the Straubs, and Duras will lead? And what new Comedyll will emerge from the mannerism of bodily postures? Your concept of mannerism is particularly convincing, once one understands how far all the various mannerisms are different, heterogeneous, above all how no common measure can be applied to them, the term indicating only a battlefield where art and thought launch together with cinema into a new domain, while the forces of control try to steal this domain from them, to take it over before they do, and set up a new clinic for social engineering. Mannerism is, in all these conflicting ways, the convulsive confrontation of cinema and television, where hope mingles with the worst of all possibilities.

excerpt from the book: Negotiations by Gilles Deleuze

August 2, 2017

WOLE SOYINKA: Re-positioning Negritude

Filed under: literature,philosophy,politics,race — ABRAXAS @ 1:07 pm


July 26, 2017

Mircea Iliade on sexuality

Filed under: philosophy,sex — ABRAXAS @ 11:08 am

“Sexuality, for desacralized, urban populations, represents the last source of the “numinous” : it is life, mystery, sacredness, all in one. Sex is everything because, for an urbanite, it is the last organic link with life.”

Mircea Iliade

July 2, 2017

nietzsche – on artists and inspiration

Filed under: art,kaganof,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 10:33 pm


June 19, 2017

art and revolution

Filed under: art,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:08 pm

“There is no art that does not create a style and there is no style that does not eventually kill art. By injecting the idea of revolution into art, our era has created a plurality of styles and pseudostyles. This abundance turns into another abundance: that of styles that die aborning. Schools proliferate and propagate like mushrooms until their very abundance finally erases the differences between one tendency and another; movements live about as long as insects do, a few short hours; the aesthetic of novelty, surprise, and change turns into imitation, tedium, and repetition. What is left for us?”
Octavio Paz
Conjunctions and Disjunctions

June 18, 2017


Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:16 pm


The idea of process implies that things happen one after the other, either in the form of sudden leaps and bounds (revolution) or in the form of gradual changes (evolution). Progress is a synonym of process because it is thought that every change results sooner or later in an advance. Both modes of succession, the revolutionary and the evolutionary, correspond to a vision of history as a march toward something – we are not exactly certain where this something is, except that this where is better than the situation today, and that it lies in the future. History is envisioned as a continuous, never-ending colonization of the future.

There is something infernal about this optimistic vision of history; the philosophy of progress is really a theory of the condemnation of man, who is doomed perpetually to move forward, knowing that he will never arrive at his final destination.

This way of thinking is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and its mythical counterpart is the expulsion from Eden. In the garden of paradise, a present without a single flaw shone brightly; in the deserts of history, the only sun that guides us is the fleeting future. The subject of this continual pilgrimage is not a nation, a class, or a civilization, but an abstrac entity: humanity. As the subject of history, “humanity” lacks substance; it is never present in person: it acts by means of its representatives, this people or that, this class or that. Persepolis, Rome, or New York, the monarchy or the proletariat, in turn represent humanity at one moment or another of history as a member of the legislature represents his electors, and as an actor represents the character he is playing.

History is a theater in which a single person, humanity, becomes many: servants, masters, bourgeois, mandarins, clergymen, peasants, workers. The incoherent shouting of all these voices turns into a rational dialogue and this dialogue into a philosophical monologue. History is a discourse. But the rebellions of the twentieth century have violated both the rules of dramatic action and those of representation. We have unforeseen irruptions that disturb the linear nature of history. Both the events and the actors betray the text of the play. They write another text, or rather invent one. History becomes improvisation. This is the end of discourse and rational legibility.

Octavio Paz
Conjunctions and Disjunctions

June 8, 2017

The Disaster

Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 1:18 pm

The disaster was already there and they didn’t realize it, since the disaster is the very idea of the disaster to come, which ruins everything long before term.

Jonathan Littell

The Kindly Ones pg.443

June 5, 2017

on the selfie generation

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 3:40 pm

“There will soon be nothing more than self-communicating zombies, whose lone umbilical relay will be their own feedback image – electronic avatars of dead shadows perpetually retelling their own story.”
– Jean Baudrillard in Telemorphosis

April 18, 2017

noise and the mind

Filed under: african noise foundation,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:55 pm

But the body knows the score, recognizes the crisis before the mind. It not only gets the steel ball rolling onto the intestines, but also activates the senses, setting them to the frequencies, at which the signals of new dangers can be received. Those signals appear as noise to the previous – pre-war – mind, as a breakdown in communication. The new mind, which the body floods with adrenaline, begins, like a rabbit in a forest of foxes – to decode all the signals, even if it’s not capable of fitting them into any narrative. The unified, ontologically comfortable mind splits: on the one hand, the pre-war mind refuses the possibility of catastrophe; on the other the war mind perceives everything as the signal that the end is nigh.

Aleksandar Hemon
Stop Making Sense: What is noise now will be music later

January 12, 2017


every act of creation is inseparable from the critique of its medium, and every work, intensely reflecting upon itself, looks like the embodied doubt of its own possibility.
Erich Heller

Say It With Flowers
South Africa

A found footage bouquet arranged and abused by Aryan Kaganof.
Film material shot by Charles Weich between 1948 and 1973 was mashed up with the soundtrack to Brief Encounter.
The result is an indictment of the pathological whiteness that manifested itself virulently as “apartheid”.
produced by Stephanus Muller for Africa Open

December 27, 2016

Filed under: philosophy,politics,signs of the times — ABRAXAS @ 9:57 am


October 30, 2016

Julien Benda – The Betrayal of the Intellectuals

Filed under: 2016 - Metalepsis in Black,literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 8:20 pm


September 20, 2016

Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:00 am


August 24, 2016

Time To Bleed – in conversation with Walter Mignolo

Filed under: philosophy,politics,Walter Mignolo — ABRAXAS @ 12:10 pm


on disciples

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:59 am

But disciples have no hearts. They only want to get inspiration and warmth from the master.
Wilhelm Reich
The Murder of Christ

August 23, 2016

on reality

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 3:22 pm


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