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robertogreco : kierkegaard   10

The Convivial Society, No. 5: Action
"In any case, we occupy a perplexing place, it seems to me, given the nature of the world constituted by digital media. By "world" I mean something like the interpretation of reality that we inhabit. It is within these worlds that our action derives motive force and intelligibility. Human beings have always shared the same earth, but we have lived in very different worlds.

The shape of our world in this sense is molded by a number of factors, some of which are felt by others and some which may be unique to us. Invariably, however, our technology and media come into play. They sustain the symbolic and conceptual infrastructure of our worlds. They nourish and constrain the imagination. They generate habits and patterns of thought. They not only supply the contents of thought, they condition what is thinkable. And our actions are meaningful within these worlds and the implicit narrative frames they provide for our lives.

It seems to me that one consequence of digital media is the proliferation of such worlds and the emergence of a public sphere in which these worlds become unavoidably entangled, for better and, very often, for worse. Under these conditions, our worlds fray and shear. Motivation is sapped, purpose depleted. Regrettably, one result of this is reactionary violence. But another result is nihilism. Another still is apathy or paralysis. Ironic detachment is yet another. This is just one way the conditions for meaningful action are undermined.

Action also requires a context in order to be intelligible and meaningful. It requires a time and a place. But we are alienated from both time and place, so we are often at loss as to what we are to do. This dynamic was already identified by Kierkegaard in the mid-nineteenth century as the telegraph contributed to the emergence of "the news" as we have come to know it: daily dispatches of happenings from around the globe.

Kierkegaard, in Hubert Dreyfus's summary, believed "the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. Thus, the new power of the press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement . . . . Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility." Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Hannah Arendt, too, had a great deal to say about action, which for her was a deeply political phenomenon in the sense that it was made possible by the plurality of the human condition. "Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter," she wrote, "corresponds to the human condition of plurality … this plurality is specifically the condition — not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam — of all political life." Action, as she noted, happened "without the intermediary of things or matter." She imagines, thus, the face-to-face encounter where action is speech and speech is action. It was through action that we disclosed ourselves before others and received in return the integrity of the self.

She distinguished between the private and the public realm, an ancient distinction, of course. The private realm was the realm of the family, the household. The public realm was the realm where individuals appeared before one another and where their words and their deeds counted for something. She also introduced a third category, the social realm. A more recent development, it was the realm of mass society. A realm of a diminished plurality that also entailed anonymity. Individuals are aggregated in the social realm, but they do not appear before one another and thus action, in her sense, was undermined.

Much of her analysis, it seems to me, can be applied to what has become the realm of our appearance: social media. It is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.

Arendt, however, was also the theorist of new beginnings, of natality, and with this I will bring these comments to a close: “But there remains also the truth that every end in history also contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est– 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”"
conviviality  lmsacasas  2018  tools  toolsforconvivilaity  zoominginandout  morality  purpose  reality  understanding  violence  digital  socialmedia  kierkegaard  apathy  hubertdreyfus  hannharendt  action  intgrity  self-consciousness  michaelsacasas 
june 2018 by robertogreco
John Berger | The Essay Prize
"THE TEN GREATEST ESSAYS, EVER
JOHN BERGER

Italo Calvino, “Exactitude”
(from Six Memos for the Next Millenium, Harvard University Press, 1988)

Rebecca Solnit, “After Ideology”
(from Hope in the Dark, 2005)

Simone Weil, “Evil”
(from Gravity and Grace, 2002)

Arundhati Roy, “The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire”
(from The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, 2004)

Iona Heath, “Ways of Dying”
(from Matters of Life and Death, 2007)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind”
(from The Primacy of Perception, 1964)

Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and On the Language of Man”
(from One-Way Street, 1928)

D.H. Lawrence, “The Dance of the Sprouting Corn”
(from Mornings in Mexico, 1927)

George Orwell, “The Art of Donald McGill”
(from Collected Essays, 1941)

Soren Kierkegard, “The Immediate State of the Erotic”
(from Either/Or, 1843)"

[via:
"Nilanjana Roy calls this a "'How to be Human' Playlist," and I agree: John Berger's ten favorite essays"
https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/366912570600333312 ]
lists  readinglists  toread  johnberger  italocalvino  rebeccasolnit  canon  simoneweil  arundhatiroy  ionaheath  mauricemerleau-ponty  walterbanjamin  dhlawrence  georgeorwell  kierkegaard  nilanjanaroy  tejucole 
january 2017 by robertogreco
What Is an "Existential Crisis”?: An Animated Video Explains What the Expression Really Means | Open Culture
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEzMwNBjkAU ]

"“Who am I?” many of us have wondered at some point in our lives, “What am I? Where am I?”… maybe even—while gazing in bewilderment at the pale blue dot and listening to the Talking Heads—“How did I get here?”

That feeling of unsettling and profound confusion, when it seems like the hard floor of certainty has turned into a black abyss of endless oblivion…. Thanks to modern philosophy, it has a handy name: an existential crisis. It’s a name, says Alain de Botton in his School of Life video above, that “touches on one of the major traditions of European philosophy,” a tradition “associated with ideas of five philosophers in particular: Kierkegaard, Camus, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre.”

What do these five have in common? The question is complicated, and we can’t really point to a “tradition.” As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes, Existentialism is a “catch-all term” for a few continental philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries, some of whom had little or no association with each other. Also, “most of the philosophers conventionally grouped under this heading either never used, or actively disavowed the term ‘existentialist.’” Camus, according to Richard Raskin, thought of Existentialism as a “form of philosophical suicide” and a “destructive mode of thought.” Even Sartre, who can be most closely identified with it, once said “Existentialism? I don’t know what it is.”

But labels aside, we can identify many common characteristics of the five thinkers de Botton names that apply to our paralyzing experiences of supreme doubt. The video identifies five such broad commonalities of the “existential crisis”:

1. “It’s a period when a lot that had previously seemed like common sense or normal reveals its contingent, chance, uncanny, and relative nature…. We are freer than we thought.”

2. We recognize we’d been deluding ourselves about what had to be…. We come to a disturbing awareness that our ultimate responsibility is to ourselves, not the social world.”

3. “We develop a heightened awareness of death. Time is short and running out. We need to re-examine our lives, but the clock is ticking.”

4. “We have many choices, but are, by the nature of the human condition, denied the information we would need to choose with ultimate wisdom or certainty. We are forced to decide, but can never be assured that we’ve done so adequately. We are steering blind.”

5. This means that anxiety is a “basic feature” of all human existence.

All of this, de Botton admits, can “seem perilous and dispiriting,” and yet can also ennoble us when we consider that the private agonies we think belong to us alone are “fundamental features of the human condition.” We can dispense with the trivializing idea, propagated by advertisers and self-help gurus, that “intelligent choice might be possible and untragic… that perfection is within reach.” Yet de Botton himself presents Existentialist thought as a kind of self-help program, one that helps us with regret, since we realize that everyone bears the burdens of choice, mortality, and contingency, not just us.

However, in most so-called Existentialist philosophers, we also discover another pressing problem. Once we become untethered from pleasing fictions of pre-existing realities, “worlds-behind-the-scene,” as Nietzsche put it, or “being-behind-the-appearance,” in Sartre’s words, we no longer see a benevolent hand arranging things neatly, nor have absolute order, meaning, or purpose to appeal to.

We must confront that fact that we, and no one else, bear responsibility for our choices, even though we make them blindly. It’s not a comforting thought, hence the “crisis.” But many of us resolve these moments of shock with varying degrees of wisdom and experience. As we know from another great thinker, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was not an Existentialist philosopher, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being…. For the person who is unwilling to grow up… this is a frightening prospect.”"
existentialcrises  existentialism  philosophy  video  2016  kierkegaard  camus  nietzsche  heidegger  sartre  jean-paulsartre  albertcamus  humancondition  alaindebotton 
july 2016 by robertogreco
An Emphatic Umph: Death and the Afterlife
"The other day, I was spending time with a friend and every time I chuckled, she'd say, That's your brother! That's his laugh! Think about what an insane thing that is to say. I wasn't quite sure I knew what she meant at that juncture but I do know the experience of being possessed by my brother. Usually, I feel it when I'm holding forth. Oh, lord, when I was teaching, I'd be mid-lecture when all I could hear, all I could feel, was my brother spouting — sprouting — up through my mouth, a kind of Ouija board.

My brother lives in Manila, in the Philippines. But he also lives right here — in me, as me, with me, at least a little. My sister is dead and she, too, lives right here — in me, as me, with me. Death, the Philippines, across town, it doesn't matte: our possession of and by other people transcends time and space, transcends body and ego. This can, of course, be to our dismay. I have familial forces working in me that I'd like to dispel. In fact, in order not to be a total asshole of a father — the key word here being total — I have to wrestle, stifle, and muffle the paternal voices that live in me, that live as me, that haunt me all the time.

We live with ghosts. This is not some supernatural thing, some mystical claim. Events are not discrete. When something happens, it doesn't just begin then end. It continues to happen more or less. This is called, amongst other things, memory. Memory is not a card catalog of snapshots. Memory is the presence of the past, here and now. It's my tying my shoe, craving rice noodles for dinner, knowing the way to my son's school. It's also the smell of my childhood house; it's falling into a pile of dog shit at the ever sad PS 165 playground and then my five year old ass being asked to strip for a bath by the Jamaican nanny I could never understand; it's the wide, radiant, true smile of my sister as well as her confused, sad, skinny face days before she died; it's the daily screaming of my parents that still echoes in my skull. It's everything that's ever happened to me and is still happening to me, right here, right now.

We are events, each of us. We continue just as the things that happen to us continue. Sure, they seem done and gone but they — but we — persist in various ways, as echoes and sentiments, as shadows and gestures, as scars and dreams."
danielcoffeen  douglain  death  2014  kierkegaard  ghosts  afterlife  religion  buddhism  meaning  meaningmaking  living  consciousness  williamsburroughs  nietzsche  foucault  jacquesderrida  paulricoeur  pauldeman  marclafia  memory  softarchitecture  lisarobertson  mortality  aubreydegrey  immortality  events  experience  time  memories  writing  transcendence  deleuze  plato  michelfoucault 
october 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Erika Hall's answer to What books would be most useful in a Humanities Starter Pack targeted at a technically minded audience? - Quora
"Remember also that such a pack would have to be small enough not to scare geeks away (or be graded somehow)…"

Erika Hall: "Nichomachean Ethics - Aristotle (350 BCE), Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond (1997), The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine (1794), Paul Rand: Conversations with Students - Michael Kroeger (Conversations took place in 1995, book published in 2008), Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus - Mary Shelley (1818), Søren Kierkegaard's In Vino Veritas"
maryshelley  kierkegaard  paulrand  aristotle  jareddiamond  booklists  books  erikahall  2011  humanities 
january 2012 by robertogreco
You’ve got the sickness, I’ve got the medicine « Snarkmarket
"These two blockquotes, curated by Andrew Simone and Alan Jacobs respectively, arrived in my RSS reader within moments of each other. I liked Jacobs’s adjective, which applies to Simone’s selection, too: “Kierkegaardian.”"
boredom  jimrossignol  timcarmody  alanjacobs  andrewsimone  walkerpercy  tv  television  2010  kierkegaard  idleness 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Guernica / Forgotten but Not Gone
"There was at least one place, I would discover, where that “instant” of Borges persisted, a land where Borges lived on as both Borges and “I,” legend and life. That place is Texas. Starting in 1961, Borges made five visits to the state—first, to teach for a semester in Austin as a visiting professor; then to lecture on Cervantes and Whitman as a literary celebrity. When Borges died on June 14, 1986, the University of Texas’s main campus lowered its flags to half-mast, a rare tribute for a writer and a perplexing honor for one without deep Texas roots. Why had Texas so embraced Borges? And why had Borges continued to return there throughout the final twenty-five years of his life?

In early January, I began to investigate what seemed a long-forgotten romance."
borges  texas  history  ut  literature  childhood  reading  writing  aging  age  meaning  2011  kafka  kierkegaard  blindness  utaustin  carterwheelcock  ercibenson  argentina  waltwhitman  cervantes  ficciones 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Praxis (process) - Wikipedia
"In her The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt argues that Western philosophy too often has focused on the contemplative life (vita contemplativa) and has neglected the active life (vita activa). This has led humanity to frequently miss much of the everyday relevance of philosophical ideas to real life.[2] [3] Arendt calls “praxis” the highest and most important level of the active life.[4] Thus, she argues that more philosophers need to engage in everyday political action or praxis, which she sees as the true realization of human freedom.[5] According to Arendt, our capacity to analyze ideas, wrestle with them, and engage in active praxis is what makes us uniquely human."
education  learning  teaching  psychology  praxis  experientiallearning  reflection  action  doing  tcsnmy  lcproject  hannaharendt  kierkegaard  heidegger  kant  aristotle  plato  staugustine  marxism  karlmarx  antoniolabriola  iteration  iterative  do  practice  socialwork  theory 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: the last jest
"Did Infinite Jest change your life?

I don't think so, but again, we’ll see. I think it’s probably the most incisive exploration of what Kierkegaard called the aesthetic life — the need for, the addiction to, the interesting — that we’ve seen since, well, Kierkegaard. In this context Auden once wrote, “All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.” That strikes me as a pretty good one-sentence summary of Infinite Jest. But of course the very idea of a “one-sentence summary of Infinite Jest” is intrinsically laughable. A bad jest."
alanjacobs  infinitejest  davidfosterwallace  addiction  damnation  auden  kierkegaard  interestingness 
september 2010 by robertogreco

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