- Rory described death as an experience that was both communal and radically subjective. Death is communal for humans to the extent that everyone dies, but also radically subjective in the sense that no one can experience death with you.
- Rory also seemed less concerned with an actual experience of death than our relation to death. Several different relations were suggested, including fear, anxiety, anticipation, and welcoming.
- We also stumbled onto the topic of the deaths of others. Avni asked how we feel about massive deaths, and I replied that I think people feel the same way about massive deaths as they do when the stock prices drop. Reports on massive numbers of dead people remain purely quantitative in comparison to the experience of losing a friend. Perhaps a little less harshly put, being indignant about genocide, being sad about the loss of a friend, and indifferent towards the prospect of your own death, are all different ways of relating to death.
- Sam argued that different cultures conceptualize death differently, and that the fear of death was not something present in all cultures, making reference to buddhist treatment of death as reincarnation.
- I argued against this point claiming that there is an experience of fear that is foundational to human existence when confronting death. It is this experience that actually drives this cultural phenomenon to be constructed in the first place, so that people are able to operate efficiently without fear in a societal context.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
First of all, I hope everyone enjoyed their break, as I know I did.
Secondly, thanks to everyone who came out last week to talk about whiteness. I know there was some discomfort over the topic at different levels, which I think is good overall.
Tapping Philosophy will be this Thursday, 8:00, at Yeats Pub, with rides leaving from Connelly at 7:30.
This is sort of a welcome back and goodbye email at the same time, mainly because this week's tapping is the last tapping philosophy of the semester.
Rory felt that death was an appropriate topic for this time of year, and I agreed. There is a long version and a short version.
Shorter Version : Part III
Part I - Break Down Melt Down
What is death?
What does it mean to die?
Four times now writing this topic my laptop has failed, blacked out, and with a stroke returned to the screen, the irresponsive cursor hanging like dead weight, and I have been forced to put it down. Putting the writing down, closing the window of the screen, out of mind, out of memory—I press the requisite buttons, hold the requisite time, and at a stroke regain the recovered file—the question persists. The document that turns against me like this, that covers over each attempt like a pile of leaves or width of water, as my left arm goes repeatedly numb, looks like:
What is death?
What does it mean to die?
* * *
As I wonder what you think of this pretension that is/was actually, factually so (it really did go out four times), and what reception death will receive in two days—did you die in order to see me wondering? Would you consent to such a self-sacrifice? Is there room for consent? A painting without perspective? Saving, shoving, this file in the virtual file cabinet of my defective and recovering laptop (think of that word, resolve it into its elements, what is being covered over again, what topped, toppled—did you consent? was there room for consent?)—I wonder why this version will be sent, if it is sent? Why, especially, already, this version which I might have found specious a year ago and even now… The other versions were not like this one.
Part II – The Surrounding of Death
Can we conceive of our own death? (as if we died together)
If you find your frigid body under an iced-water that you do not feel—does that… count? And another corpse, is it recognizable?
Imagining death is oddly akin to following the test or limit of subjectivity (from Schopenhauer): to imagine a world that you are not imagining.
A body that you are not inhabiting.
We think, and experience seems to tell us, that we can imagine, even realize, another's death. We have all been to a funeral. But, at a funeral, is it really someone else that dies; is it not rather a part of us that dies? Which is just to ask whether we imagine the other as a self in the first place. Perhaps only a life with the real world (ontological and inaccessible) as a dead world could contain the death of the other that dies as a self—precisely because death is the condition of life's perspective. The true self looks out of a dead body…
And more immediately for us, perspective, already a complex of perspectives, is the condition upon which/toward which inspection turns. Thinking looks out at the contradiction of perspective, through the maze of perspective, at a dead truth.
Death is meaningful only to the living, yet to the living only as the spot at which life vanishes, the vanishing point. If we look at life from outside of it, only then can we see the whole. The whole is foreclosed, vanishes to itself, and only thereby has a point—for any other point would be a point within, for or against, that whole. So, then (afterwards), a holistic life can only be lived out of death. Does this make sense? Or is death only an imponderable, invisible side of life, not outside it? Is death merely the starting point (as limit) for finitude, contained within finitude—can the limit belong to the limited? If we always presume to live past our own deaths: we always act anyway, by chance, or is it situation, or will, or is it construction, or is it the alignment of the stars—what does it matter to ask such questions?
To sum this up, if life belongs to death as delimited (originated or determined) by it, and death belongs to life as its condition and conditionality, even as its contingency as such (contingency is nothing determined)—what does this do? Where do we end up? Or since, at the very extreme-st edge of place this has become a discussion of what "place" is at all—since this most superficial surface of the edge of a place is no different from what it would be to be a place… a not impossible but unthinkable and unthinking place—… 'one' 'could' under the force of such a force that it repeals itself, encounter the question: "how come here?" Not that it is. Not what it is. (Which with death become: that it is in reserve, how it reserves itself.) Rather only a question of the composite and composition of the two. But composition as such is all-referential, all-sided, all-posing. The question then returns, regains itself, recovers (miraculously, with resurrected flesh)—having heard our say to the full, as an echo, that questions and challenges us, asking what we are that this could come up, or better, "who is death?"
Simultaneously inevitable and accidental (most necessary and most possible) death asks the fatal question: "how come?" i.e. both why? and where/when? and each as the other. Irretrievably singular death pulls with its own space-time and dark-reasons. It is a black hole that—somehow, and only always utterly inexplicably—makes light possible. To approach is already doom, and of course we have already approached.
Belonging to being, beginning, determination, diction would be death.
Belonging to condition, middle, contemplation, meter would be life.
Belonging twists / no longer belongs to anything else/ but calls to itself: be-longing.
Without subject. Without object.
Death is the content of love (both its contention and its content, satisfaction)… but only because it is no different, gives room (all of it) for love's in-difference.
So outside it is superficial, so superficial it is outside—death is the Archimedean point, that lifts from a distance, by applying no pressure. It is grace.
But then I have not been talking about death at all, only the thinking of it (which is nothing like it), in the body of which it is redeemed. How is there thinking of death then? That can only be in love, which responds to no such questioning. It is always on the other side.
Part III – A Definition is Born…
Perhaps, then, for thought—death is the unstable mixture of solitude and sickness.
Solitary because unable to move, unable to connect, enclosed, as if one (always already seeing, acting, deciding itself)
Sick because insinuating emptiness, always forecasting malfunction, yet unable to see, act or decide for itself.
Unstable because solitude and sickness are invariably opposed, as the same they would not exist.
Solitude makes up for sickness' lack of finality, of occurrence, even logic.
Death ends something; it corresponds in that we can anticipate it…
Sickness makes up for solitude's definitiveness, possible inwardness, or phenomenality.
…Yet death has already anticipated us; its contribution to correspondence is the static of the void. Abandonment.
So then, the sickness of solitude…
that we cannot be one
…and the solitude of sickness
that this inability to be one cannot be shared.
And of course, the solitude of sickness
that there is no consolation
…with the sickness of solitude
that this inconsolability dies its own death.
Part IV – …And it Slips Away
Death as radioactive particle.
What cannot be shared (as one), then, is the redemption of the inconsolable (irresistibly)
Death as afterlife.
It is then, the wholeness of radiation which exists only at its own vanishing point, resonance and then its echo—a voice that is no different than this pure difference, and thus in-difference, which at the eclipsing of death, can only mean, hyper-transcendence.
I have not really been talking about death at all…
not even in thinking…
the inability to die
White People and Whiteness
What does it mean to be a white person today? What sorts of assumptions are implicit within the term "white people"? Is there a homogenous body of white people or are white people as disparate a demographic as any other? What sorts of practical phenomenon are people referring to when they use the term white privilege, white flight, and white man's burden, and are any of these terms still applicable today? Where is it a beneficial to be white, and where is it problematic, and what are some common characteristics of either group of locations? Is there a shared culture of white people, or is the term simply a biological, racial qualifier? Does the term "white people" have a normative dimension, and how would the historical situation of the term's use, including the person using it, affect its meaning?
It seems to me that the term white people, or whiteness if we want to lean towards an essentialist term, can be used various different ways. One way whiteness can be used is as a description of a person behaving in a way that is considered by their peers to be inauthentic to their race or culture. One recent occurrence of this was the criticism Barack Obama received before the election from some members of the black political community for not being "black" enough. It seems then that these criticisms define separate criteria for whiteness and blackness, which are defined normatively in opposition to each other. In other words, Barack Obama's lack of blackness is determined as whiteness. What problems arise when defining whiteness, and perhaps race in general, in both positive terms, and negative relational terms? I think particular attention should be paid to the negative relational use of whiteness as a normative absence, as this is arguably how it is most often implemented in contemporary political discourse.
I wrote this topic a while ago, and since then "stuff white people like" has written a book and gone on tour, and Barack Obama has been elected president, and was obviously embraced by most of the black political community, which we would imagine occurred because of his politics, and not necessarily the question of race. Bill Clinton was also embraced by the black political community, and a comparison of the two politicians might be helpful for examining a concept of whiteness or race in gneneral. If we like, we can turn this into a discussion about race in general, but whiteness is interesting because it can link us whiteness as a value standard of social and cultural capital. I'm open to alternative paths of discussion.