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.

Genealogy of Morals 3

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

Feminist Philosophy - Mill

What Mill wants for the individual is freedom within society. This means, for Mill, that the dissenting opinion is respected as much as the opinion which accords with the majority. Law was once the codification of the prejudices of the ruling class, whether the Spartans, princes, nobles, etc. With the advent of popular rule, the risk becomes not just the tyranny of one over another, but the tyranny of the majority over the dissenting individual through the codification of popular prejudice as law. Mill believes that this owes to an lack of rationality, an inability to put aside one's own personal preferences and consider what is most useful for society. In his view, the only legitimate reason to limit the freedom of an individual is the case in which they would do another harm or have harm result due to their inaction. This serves to maximize liberty, because it allows for a great amount of individual liberty while also ensuring that the liberty of others is protected against actions of others which might serve to compromise their liberty.

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.

Cruelty and Morality, Guilt and Punishment

For Nietzsche, morality is a reversal of instincts, that it is a "will to self-tormenting" as a "repressed cruelty" which has emerged as a response to the civilization and enclosure within walls of humankind (section 22, p. 528). This stands in general accord with Nietzsche's conception of adaptation and the effect of accident: what was once an adaptation becomes, when it is no longer a necessity for survival, a sublimated instinct which is reassessed, reinterpreted, and realigned in a way which does not necessarily show its origins. Especially tied to this is the creation of the concept of guilt; here, Nietzsche clearly stands as a precursor for future philosophers (here, Foucault is obvious) in his historical analysis of a seemingly absolute phenomenon in terms of historical factors. Guilt, for Nietzsche, emerged from the very real relations between creditor and debtor; ultimately, through accident, reinterpretation, and changing conditions, guilt moved from a state between individuals to a state between the individual and society. Eventually, this relation became one between the state and individual. The purpose of punishment changes from a recompense in a more monetary sense to one in which power is vented, in which one becomes master over the other (section 12, p. 513). And here, the tie between punishment and guilt ties to cruelty and morality; guilt is the creation of the conquerors, those who would make laws and exert their master over others. Through guilt, they exercise their cruelty over others, in a celebratory fashion, binding others to laws and, hence, to civilization. Morality, in this sense, stands somewhat as an internalization of guilt, a creation which arose from the origins of law, an internalized reaction to external laws (section 17).

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

Nietzsche and Hegel, Slave Morality

Nietzsche's conception of the contrast of the Slave-Master morality contrast stands as just that, a contrast between two different but not necessarily fundamentally incompatible forms of morality. The contrast between the two is not that they value different and opposing ideals, but rather that master morality is an active morality, while slave morality is a reactive morality (here, especially section 10 of the Genealogy). The slave says "no" to life, to suggest that the instinct is something controllable and, hence, to apply morality to all one's ability to control one's urges, to circumvent the activity of one's power. Slave morality borrowed the distinction of "good" and "bad" and created "good" and "evil" as opposites. Thus, Nietzsche would class Hegel's Master-Slave morality as a sort of slave morality (this, even ignoring Hegel's claim that the slave class becomes stronger and triumphs) because it contrasts the Master and Slave morals as mirroring one another. Taken in Hegel's sense, Master morality and Slave morality stand in contradiction and require some kind of resolution if one is not to overtake and dominate the other, hence, the dialectical process. For Hegel, the historical circumstance of the domination of Master morality is no more than the domination of one side of the dialectical contrast which inevitably shall be eventually cease when the Master grows too weak and is overthrown by the Slave. This should also be contrasted with Nietzsche conception of the reason for the overthrowing of the Master: rather than being too weak, the Master remains strong and is only curbed from expressing their power, through the subversive strength of Slave morality, which demands that they say "no" to themselves.

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

Beyond Good & Evil

In "We Scholars", Nietzsche appears to be taking his critique of the prejudices of philosophers further, implicating the academic tendencies of the period and, in doing so, engaging in a critique of what might be considered general scholarly tendencies. As the philosopher is also a scholar, the critique of scholars bears on what has been said earlier about philosophers, but it also must be understood that the philosopher should stand apart as critic of the current state of things. Thus, in section 212, he says that the philosopher "being of necessity a man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, has always found himself, and had to find himself, in contradiction to his today: his enemy was ever the ideal of today". As stressed here and earlier, in the section about the "Free Spirit", the philosopher does not dwell on the past but looks to the future. By what means does the philosopher do this? To dwell in skepticism, which Nietzsche heavily criticizes in section 209, is not an option. Yet, if he does not support a skepticism, it is only because of the paralysis which he associates with it, as he does support skepticism as criticism in a particular form, in section 210. What struck me as most important was the importance of self criticism: "the ability to stand alone and give an account of themselves". Or later, in 212: "By applying the knife vivsectionally to the chest of the very virtues of their time, they betrayed what was their own secret: to know of a new greatness of man, of a new untrodden way to his enhancement."

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.