Tuesday, April 14, 2009
And yet, the range of her discussion suggests that sexual violence against women is not as simple as she suggests: it is not merely a tool, a method of control, or an entirely intended consequence. When non-Natives cannot be prosecuted for crimes committed on a reservation, it is also an issue of sovereignty, of funding and political interest. When the question of rape is considered relative to Native American cultures, it is also an issue of cultural relativism, tribal sovereignty, and marginalization. Thus, while her treatment of the issue is illuminating, the question of what to do is not made to appear simple; while this is realistic, it also ultimately makes action much more complex.
Monday, April 13, 2009
One must always be concerned whenever a philosopher attempts to utilize the will to power to justify any sort of an interpretation of Nietzsche, as they usually attempt to suggest that power is the motivating drive which guides moral action. Certainly, Nietzsche is quite interested in the expression of power within the moral sense, but his account is robbed of its nuance when all contradictions are removed in the attempt to make his account coherent. This much said, Hurka does not seem to fall into this as much as others, if only because he does not merely base his account on an oversimplified view of the will to power but also considers hierarchy and what he describes as Nietzsche's "maximax principle" (18). While others try to suggest that Nietzsche's is a personal account and use this as an excuse to ignore Nietzsche's antidemocratic principles in putting forth some sort of universal morality which has little basis in Nietzsche's thought, Hurka explicitly draws the conclusion that a morality based on Nietzschean principles would necessarily require others to ignore their own well being and focus only on the perfection of a few great individuals (20-21). This much said in favor of Hurka's argument, it seems unclear what exactly it means to value power in this sense; maximum power perhaps does not mean what it would imply. There is not only power over but power against. As suggested in the prior reading, overcoming requires obstacles and power requires its equal. Respect among equals is not a state in which one power bears over another but instead a state in which power sees its equal and accepts this, stands not in anger or conflict but respect. In this sense, Nietzsche's perfectionism is not so much a maximization of power as finding the power relation which accords with one's own, dominating the lesser to the extent that is needed but also recognizing the equal.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Mohanty’s article was rather illuminating, if a bet dense. I found her use of specific examples a particularly astute example of how a feminist can maintain a non-essentialist viewpoint while still believing in some form of globalized feminism. While some of the things she specifically said about the New World Order and the reproduction of patriarchy in the globalization of capitalism sometimes stretched credulity, her points were well taken and found a counter-model for the creation of a global feminism. Just as the capitalist effort succeeds in a foreign society by implementing a specific tactic (i.e.: producing food, products, etc.) by tailoring their methods according to the society, and foreign companies target consumers by not simply attempting to import their products wholesale but instead adapting them to the environment, so the feminist movement needs to adapt itself to specific circumstances, to take a pragmatic approach that attempts to understand the choices made by individuals in specific situations and the possibilities which they are able to consider. A prime example of this is found in her discussion of immigrant women working in the United States: the association of labor unions with white, working class American men has served to sour the image of the union to immigrant women, leading them to organize through church groups. Their alternative choice might seem questionable to the American feminist, inasmuch as churches seem to be yet another reflection of the very patriarchy that the women must hope to escape. Yet, practical choices must be made by these women, and organizing themselves in struggles allows them to claim it as their own, to gain consciousness of their position as a worker who is being exploited. Ultimately, different means are needed for each group of exploited workers, inasmuch as each situation is different; however, the struggle against oppression and the lack of recognition of the value of their work is one thing that all these women share in common, and the exchange of ideas, as long as it is not based on a hegemonic relationship, can do more good than harm and should be encouraged.
Both the ascetic ideal and the scientific ideal represent a turning away from appearance. Thus, the ascetic says “no” to the surface appearance, turns away from the body, and posits an ideal, a substratum behind things or some other essential element which can be found in all things. So follows science: an attempt is made to reach a perspective which is beyond perspective, an objective eye which is not corrupted by being embodied with a perspective, one which is pure and true. Thus, both search for “truth” and engage in the “will to truth”. And whence the will to truth? Here, it is illuminating to note that Nietzsche formulates the problem of the desire for truth as a “will to”, much as his will to power; it seems clear that the will to truth is a ruse, it is a move which is contains more than it says, it is a symptom of another sort of illness, a will to power, but one which does not necessarily lead to what is best for the creature. The value of truth is negative; the will to truth is the will to an illusion, but a dishonest one. It searches for origins where there are none, searches for objectivity and objective facts which are merely perspectives that have been given a greater standing than others and have been incorrectly universalized. The will to truth and the ascetic ideal stand for a turning away from the “truth” of reality (we must surely put the word in quotes when we are to use it thus) and its inherently perspectival and superficial nature; the will to truth is a will towards and unconscious self deception, a pacification of the self. Thus, the contrast for the ascetic ideal is art, the acceptance of pure artifice, of interpretation and creation, of the acceptance of will, of an excitation of the senses.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The largest apparent threat to the individual, in this essay, would therefore seem to be the limiting of liberty without legitimate cause, which results in an inability to live one's life as one would see fit; while coercion seem implicit in this, other forms of limitation of the individual life which are more indirect would likely also be considered threats to individual liberty. The limiting agent, society at large, therefore also appears as a dire threat, inasmuch as large groups of like minded individuals are capable of suppression of dissent and, hence, great injustice through the limitation of individual liberty.
This results in a further turn, however, one which Nietzsche laments: guilt becomes internalized and turned back against those who were originally creditors. Hence, slave morality becomes endemic (for there can be no doubt that the debtor is the slave, and hence, a reactive type) and ressentiment becomes the order of the day (section 21).
Monday, March 16, 2009
It is this requirement of opposing position that likely creates Nietzsche's animosity to the dialectic; for Nietzsche, we are not speaking of good or bad in morality except as it relates to other aspects of existence (survival, improvement, culture, etc.). As he states again and again, the very question of morality is to be considered, and here he considers the primary method by which the world is classed within morality and contrasts it with other historical examples. Whereas Hegel takes the Master-Slave connection to be one which leads to some sort of historically inevitable conclusion, Nietzsche would not support any such conception (let alone Hegel's apparent belief in a form of socialism establishing the conclusion of the Master-Slave conflict).
Monday, March 2, 2009
Perhaps the most important tool in this process (and that most ignored by other philosophers), is the utilization of the historical sense in analysis. Here we must point to the "Natural History of Morals"; here Nietzsche is suggests an alternate course of action, to consider morality and not the proof of a morality as an issue. As he says in section 186, "what was lacking was any suspicion that there was something problematic here. What the philosophers called 'a rational foundation for morality' and tried to supply was, seen in the right light, merely a scholarly variation of the common faith in the prevalent morality; a new means of expression for this faith... certainly the very opposite of an examination, analysis, and vivesection of this very faith." That he uses the same language here as he does later must be noted: the problems of philosophy must be laid bare and disassembled to understand them better and understand their origins. The "Natural History of Morals" stands as something of an attempt to do just this. Though he is speaking about individuals, Nietzsche's question and answer about the moralist in section 187 is notable to consider in this light: "what does such a claim tell us about the man who makes it? There are moralities which are meant to justify the creator before others." When one considers sections 195-198, it becomes clear that such a description is applicable to broader moral systems, and that the "slave rebellion in morals" and the values embodied in the moral system which became prevalent also serve as justification for the creators of the value systems.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The best reply to such a concern would be to restate the origin of such a perspective (the European Enlightenment tradition) and in doing so emphasize the prejudice of such a view: the methods of the European epistemological tradition have maintained that certain perspectives are more apt to be able to gain knowledge (in this case, those who are of higher status and are thus more educated in the methods of knowledge production) and are more able to achieve an objective perspective. The key difference between "strong objectivity" and the empiricist objective enterprise lies in the lack of acknowledgment on the side of the empiricist that there is in fact a bias which is being enshrined in the questions and hypotheses being considered. The empiricist lies in uncontested social territory: they have absorbed the traditions and the biases of the society of which they are a part and replicate them in a way which mirrors the society at large and renders them nearly unrecognizable. The "strong objectivist", conversely, lies at the margins of society at large and thus are in a key position to be able to see what is invisible to others, to criticize what is taken as a given and thus acheive a greater degree of objectivity than other methods which stress objectivity.
While this argument is convincing, it also seems that there must be a counter-act of critique to fully strength of the marginal account: the individual who makes the account may be able to see the biases hidden in the society at large, but may harbor their own biases which may not be accounted for. Further, such an actor may have absorbed certain biases which infect the rest of the society; the actors are marginalized, not outside of the society that they critique, for they must have some working familiarity of the system. Such an example is historically found in the lack of attention paid to women in the advancement of civil rights. If we consider such a difficulty, we run the risk of infinite regress, insamuch as there seems to be no position of which we can say with complete security that it is better able to engage in critique. This, of course, assuming that we value objectivity as an ultimate end; here we must take it upon ourselves to consider the origins of the value of objectivity yet again.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Such criticism is especially clear in Nietzsche's treatment of Schopenhauer and Wagner in section 99: here again we see Nietzsche engaging in very important self-criticism. Nietzsche is no longer quoting long passages of Shopenhauer or celebrating Wagner as the genius of the age; both are considered in their strengths and weakness and both are found wanting in certain important senses. The intellectual conscience mentioned in section 2 is obeyed and Nietzsche cannot help but move away from the individuals and thoughts that he once endorsed. This is seen especially clear in the recurring themes that occur throughout all of Nietzsche's work (Wagner and Schopenhauer, of course, but also Christianity, music, the arts, and morality).
Section 317 is very telling in this respect: reflection on past events leads us to the recognition that what was once very sure may not be in the future. Taken in relation to his own philosophy, it is a recognition of the change that has occurred in his own philosophy and the change that shall continue as long as Nietzsche remains rooted in his critical method. Continuous change and "yes-saying" is only made possible when one is in the critical mindset, that is, when one can be comfortable enough to continuously question the core beliefs that one holds. Section 106 perhaps illustrates the hope that Nietzsche has for his own thought: "For a doctrine to become a tree, it has to be believed, it has to be considered irrefutable. The tree needs storms, doubts, worms, and nastiness to reveal the nature and the strength of the seedling; let it break if it is not strong enough."
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
As to the question of whether being a woman today implies heterosexuality, it must be answered that this is case only inasmuch as the identity of a woman is understood within the binary model of gender. The rigidity of the heterosexuality, however, would seem to depend on the perspective of the observer; as society at large is largely patterned on the male perspective, and as the male perspective must understand the "other" only in generalized terms of what it is not, it stands that the field is more open. This is different within the field of positive speculation of what defines a woman, where the attempt to define who and what a women is are considered in positive terms. Accordingly, to men the woman can express a more subtle sense of sexuality, such as bisexuality, as long as she is not outwardly butch (though bisexuality is often normalized as mere promiscuity); to women, however, there seems to be less acceptance, and a similar expectation that the bisexual is merely a promiscuous individual (the bisexual always seems to lose).
Group boundaries serve to exclude as well as include, so that any positive form of group identification (that is, identification besides simply being an "other") serves to create a set of norms. So: only when we see bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, and others who engage in the critique of binary gender and sexuality (likely the best description of what is a complex phenomena) as normal individuals should there be said to be a lack of heterosexism.
Monday, February 9, 2009
This aphorism is, I think, key if we are to make any sense of Nietzsche's hyperbolic and offensive statements. Nietzsche toys with our expectation that he should be arguing for his perspective by engaging in the very forms of argumentation he disagrees with, successfully parodying them by showing what a lack of reason they exhibit and pointing towards other conclusions regarding the subject at hand. So, for example, in 140, entitled "Too Jewish", he utilizes the tendency to justify behaviors on racial lines to make a point about the heritage of Christianity and its tendencies, in tandem with the surrounding sections. He points towards (I think this is the best way to characterize his style of argumentation) the absurdity of anti-Semitism by making clear, again and again, the affinity between Christianity and Judaism while appearing to be engaging in purely racist argumentation.
A similar, and altogether bizarre example of this is found in section 145, "Danger for Vegetarians"; here he engages with the common Orientalist perceptions and anti-Irish sentiment (which seems rather odd, since he isn't English). His first line is a bizarre bit of syllogism: "A diet that consists predominately of rice leads to the use of opium and narcotics, just as a diet that consists predominately of potatoes leads to the use of liquor". Here Nietzsche is engaging in the sort of racist talk about tendencies and diets that was not necessarily uncommon in this period. The reasoning is shown to be laughable, and Nietzsche uses this to make a greater point about dietary rules in general: the religious dietary restriction is also a method for control. The guru would like to enforce the rule of vegetarianism as law because it would further increase influence; the talk of narcotic effects, I think, should be taken less as a literal statement of the effects of foods and more as a statement about the religious content being discussed.
The difficulty in interpreting such sections is that Nietzsche parodies are so subtle that it requires biographical knowledge to determine where he is telling the truth and where he is engaging in parody. The situation is further complicated when we consider the different standards of what was and what was not considered acceptable language: his use of the term "Oriental", for example, would likely not have struck his peers as overly offensive, even though it is questionable to us. Nietzsche surely knew that misunderstandings would occur, and seems to have strategically placed hints such as section 191 as well as others about humor and lightness, to suggest to us that there his ridiculous arguments and questionable statements are only preliminary stages upon which he is engaging in more complex reasoning.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This much said, it seems that there can be a united front if there is recognition of the varieties of experiences in the same stroke as the recognition of similarities. Marginalization of women and their rights does occur at all levels of society; Spelman mentions the subordination of women in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. As long as such experiences are acknowledged as legitimate grievances, as long as the unique experiences of all groups of women are understood as legitimate and not special cases, then can the be a united front. If the of the life of the white middle class woman takes a greater role than it deserves, if this life is taken as the standard for what it is to be a woman, then there can be little hope of reconciliation and a united front. It is a task which must be achieved over a period of time, however, not a problem that can be solved through simple immediate action.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The Birth of Tragedy is imbued with a pessimistic spirit, with hints of the nihilism to come, but compared with later work and in general, it seems to avoid the most despairing nihilistic points and manages to sound rather optimistic. One of the most pessimistic moments involves Nietzsche's description of the story of Silenus, with the quote from Oedipus at Colonus, that "What is best of all is... not to be born, not to be, to be nothing" (42). While we must be drawn in by the gravity of such a statement, there is little hint of overwhelming systematic despair; the quote lends itself merely to pessimism. Indeed, the next page has the description of the Apollinian resolution of this despair with the emergence of a thirst for beauty, "just as roses burst from thorny bushes" (43). Again, on page 60, "man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence; now he understands what is symbolic in Ophelia's fate; now he understands the wisdom of the sylvan god, Silenus: he is nauseated". Even here, "art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing". Even when reaching for towards nihilism, he is drawn back, he is convinced by the overwhelming power of art, not questioning its legitimacy or its ability to truly engage us in such a way. He has not reached nihilism proper, for he has not let go of the hope that art can provide us with a meaningful existence. Can art do this? We should rather rephrase the question: can any form of self-deception do this? I believe so, but when we have reached the point of nihilism, we are taken by a possibly fatal disease which can be warded off with treatment but can always return and will show symptoms occasionally. Nietzsche has not reached beyond pessimism at this point, and so seems rather hopeful that art can serve a healing function; his solution at this point is the most attractive solution which will likely be found in any of his writings, at least for most readers.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
While this new dichotomy is clearly understood, it is difficult to determine how exactly the Socratic urge is to be understood in relation to the former categories of the Apollinian and Dionysian. Certainly, Nietzsche considers it somewhat Apollinian, but he also tends to treat the Apollinian with more respect than the Socratic. Considering his earlier description of the aspects of the Apollinian, as well as his descriptions of the rationalizing effects of the Socratic, it seems possible that he considered the Socratic to be a derivative and weaker form of the Apollinian, one which is so deluded about the nature of appearance that it cannot allow itself to confront the Dionysian and, indeed, itself, in any meaningful way. This is likely why he treats it more harshly than the Dionysian: whereas the Socratic must destroy all unreason, rationalize all that does not stand in logical relation, the Apollinian managed to reach a sort of detente with the Dionysian, to allow it to exist and even engage with it in a meaningful way. Tragedy stands as the epitome of this ability, and the tragedy of Euripides destroys this relation, banishing the Dionysian and its effects.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It seems as if the greatest concern for the reader must be to consider how literally Nietzsche is speaking in this section. He appears to be speaking largely figuratively, but he also is engaging in a critique of the idea of the Greeks as the inherently rational and enlightened culture which stands as one of the origins of European thought. He is using the example of Dionysus and Apollo to illustrate his conception of the divide which emerges naturally, one which stands as his own analogue to the representation/will distinction which is central to the philosophy of Schopenhauer. His aim, however, is to bring the insights of Schopenhauer to the realm of the Greeks and, in doing so, to engage in a critique of the popular conception of Greek culture in the same stroke. In this short selection, it still seems unclear from whence the Apollonian/Dionysian distinction emerges; he seems to presume it as a distinction which emerges from existence itself, but it is still unclear why this is the case. His self-criticism in the preface seems to suggest that he was also unsatisfied with the lack of clarity of the writing in his work. It is interesting that his writing became clearer as he moved towards the aphorism as a primary means of writing.