Monday, June 29, 2009

Acknowledgements

Hello everyone,
First of all thanks to everyone who came out last week for our riveting discussion on Agamben's biopolitics. I apologize for the lateness of this email.
____
***IMPORTANT*** This week tapping philosophy will be starting AN HOUR LATER at 9:00 on thursday (today) at Yeat's pub, meeting at 8:30 in Connelly for rides.

Take the normal meeting time, and shift it back an hour. 9:00 tonight at Yeat's 8:30 tonight at Connelly.

This week will be talking about purpose, and it will be the last tapping philosophy of the semester.

-------
A few words:

Since my freshman year in college I have been involved in tapping philosophy in one way or another, but as my senior year comes to a close, it is time for me to say goodbye to tapping philosophy. Tapping Philosophy has been alive for 7 years, and though the people who come now are different, I have seen many of its good qualities maintained and improved. Tapping Philosophy is not just a place and a time and a conversation, but a burgeoning underground intellectual community, that promotes honest creative thinking, the type of thinking that is all too rare. Because of how it challenges people to think in a less restricted environment than the classroom in a fun, engaging, and meaningful way, I am confident that tapping philosophy will continue after my departure.

I want to recognize the people who have been heavily involved in tapping philosophy since its inception. Christopher Continanza, Phil Walsh, Michael Prosch, Charles Girard, Dan Larkin, Paul Livingston, David Schindler, and Sally Scholz, thank you for creating tapping as we know it, and laying the foundation for others to build upon. I'd also like to thank the philosophy department for their willingness to contribute money for appetizers, because as much fun as philosophy is, it is not sustainable without fried calamari, spring rolls, and quesadillas.

I also want to thank Mark Kasten, for taking over tapping philosophy after Chris went to graduate school. Rob, Tom, and myself left Mark with tapping philosophy that year, and he preserved and perfected tapping philosophy without Tom and Rob for a semester, and without me for a year. Without Mark, I don't know what would've happened to tapping philosophy. I also want to thank Mark, Rob, and Tom for the support they provided for the first year that I ran tapping philosophy, and having them bring high standards of intellectual rigor.

Finally, I would like to thank Christina, for her willingness to take a leadership role in tapping philosophy this year. Because of her involvement, tapping philosophy has become more democratic, and this year we had more contributions for topics than ever before, including topics from Rory, Charles, Gil, and Brandon. I am extremely pleased with the high levels of critical thinking and enthusiasm displayed by these individuals through their writing, and I am confident that their enthusiasm will not diminish. If this trend continues, than it bodes well for the longevity of tapping philosophy, and Christina will have set a great precedent through her involvement.

All this being said, Christina and I will both be in the philadelphia area next semester. While I can't speak for her because I know she will be very busy with her job, I will be visiting from time to time to see how things are progressing.

I wish you all the best, and I will see you tonight.

Love and Peace,
Frank

Thursday April 16-- Tapping Philosophy: Time

Hey all,
I’ve taken it upon myself to write up this week’s topic for Tapping Philosophy. We’re dealing with time; I’ve given plenty of quoted material and some questions to get us started.

In his work “The Idea of History,” R.G. Collingwood challenges the traditional conceptions of time, concluding that any attempt at a visualization of time at all is a futile undertaking.

This first quote deconstructs the idea of time as a mobile stream.

“Time is generally figured or imagined to ourselves in a metaphor as a stream or something in continuous and uniform motion. … The metaphor of a stream means nothing unless it means that the stream has banks, relatively to which it is in motion; but when we apply this to time it is impossible to say that the lapse or process of time is relative to something else which does not proceed or move: for this other thing could ex hypothesi only be another time, a time which remained stationary instead of moving. Nor can we strictly say that time moves, or lapses, or proceeds; for all motion presupposes time, and whereas a moving body moves in time, time itself cannot move in time, unless there are (as foresaid) two times, and it certainly cannot move except in time.”

A subsequent excerpt destroys the concept of time as a fixed line, and our present as a single point on this line.

“We are not really better off if we concentrate on the image of a straight line. If we think of time as a line, we think of the present as one point in it, with the past on one side and the future on the other; the present, I suppose, is imagined as traveling into the future so that what was the future becomes by degrees first present and then past, and then more and more remote in the past. But this figure only seems appropriate so long as we forget that the line is really regarded as consisting of events arranged in a temporal series, and that therefore we are thinking of all events, not as happening, but as existing from eternity to eternity and merely waiting to be revealed by a kind of searchlight or pinhole called the present, when it reaches them. Unless we think of them thus, the figure of a line has no applicability whatever; for the events of the future do not really wait their turn to appear, like the people in a queue at a theater awaiting their turn at the box office; they do not yet exist at all, and they therefore cannot be grouped in any order whatsoever. Similarly about the events of the past; which, because they have happened, and therefore are not now happening, do not exist and therefore cannot be arranged along a line. The temporal series regarded as a line, therefore, is in reality a line consisting of one point only, the present.”

Collingwood’s point is that any conception of past and future is merely ideal, and that only the present exists. Even to say that the past exists because it is known is wrong to Collingwood; “The past as such is not known, either in historical thought or in memory, in any sense in which knowledge could guarantee real existence.”

With Collingwood’s destruction of the idea of an ‘existent’ past and future, we are left with the past and future as merely ideal. In this context, what does it mean to think of the past? What is the significance of memory? Can there be meaning to conceiving of the future?

We can also deal with whether or not Collingwood’s criticisms here are justified; authors such as Wilhelm Dilthey have essentially argued that the manner in which our conception of past and future affects our actions makes it real ‘enough.’ Is this a good enough way to deal with these problems? If not, how should we proceed?

Or, if you're lazy and skipped over all the big quotes, just consider the simple [sic] question: What is time?

Hope to see you Thursday.

Gil Morejon
Villanova University 2011
gilbert.morejon@villanova.edu
732 - 604 - 7041

Thursday April 23-- Tapping Philosophy: Biopolitics

Hi Tapping,
Thanks for everyone last week who came out for time. Sorry for the late email this week. Charles and Brendan are responsible for this week's topic, which is below. We'll be meeting at 7:30 in Connelly for Rides, and 8:00 at Yeats. I hope to see you all there!

Best,
Frank


- Hide quoted text -

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Charles P Myers
Date: Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 5:55 PM
Subject: Tapping This Week
To: Francis Prior


Frank,

Bach and I were talking and this relatively short essay by Giorgio Agamben looks like it could provide a fair amount of discussion fodder.

-Charles

GERMAN LAW JOURNAL Vol. 05 No. 02
Bodies Without Words: Against the Biopolitical Tatoo
By Giorgio Agamben*

I have read in the newspapers that foreign citizens, when travelling to the United
States on a Visa, will undergo a data registration and have their fingerprints taken.
Not willing to submit myself to this treatment, I decided therefore to cancel my
guest lectures at New York University for March 2004. At this time, I would like to
provide reasons for my decision – a decision that I find necessary and unavoidable
in spite of my sympathies for American students and professors with whom I have
for many years felt connected both in friendship and professional life. This is a
decision that I would hope to be adopted also by other European Intellectuals and
Teachers.

In fact, we are not concerned here solely with the sensitivity of an individual in the
face of a procedure that for many years was imposed upon those who found
themselves under suspicion for an alleged crime or who were suffering political
persecution. If it were only that, one could even imagine facing these degrading
conditions, if only out of solidarity with those that find themselves otherwise
subjected to them. But, the problem before us goes far beyond individual
sensitivity. This problem concerns nothing less than the normal, legal-political
(better: biopolitical) status of citizens in the so-called democratic states in which we
live.

For many years now, at first only occasionally and barely perceptibly, then
increasingly more openly and persistently, there has been an attempt to accustom
citizens to supposedly normal and humane procedures and practices that had
always been considered to be exceptional and inhumane. Today’s electronically
enhanced possibilities of the state to exercise control over its citizens through credit
cards or cellular phones were unimaginable in the past. But there is one threshold
in the control and manipulation of bodies, the transgression of which would signify
a new global political condition. It would equal a next step towards what Foucault
has referred to as the progressive animalization of man through extremely refined
techniques. The electronic registration of finger prints, the subcutaneous tatoo and
other such practices must be located on that threshold.

We ought not to be confused by the security reasons that are being put forward as
their justification. Experience has taught us that practices, at first only applied to
foreigners, were gradually applied to everyone. The question we are concerned
with concerns this new “normal” biopolitical relationship between the citizen and
the state. What we are witnessing is no longer the free and active participation on
the political level, but the appropriation and registration of the most private and
unsheltered element, that is the biological life of bodies. Media installations
controlling and manipulating public speech equal those technological instruments
that identify and appropriate bare life.

In between these two extremes – a word without body and a body without word –
the room that was referred to as politics is increasingly becoming scarce and
narrow. Paradoxically, the citizen is thus rendered a suspect all along, a suspect
against which all those techniques and installations need to be mounted that had
orginally been conceived of only for the most dangerous individuals. Per
definitionem, mankind has been declared the most dangerous of all classes.
A few years ago, I wrote that the city had ceased to be the founding political image
of the West and that it had been replaced by the concentration camp – not Athens,
but Auschwitz. Certainly, this was a philosphical, not a historical thesis. We are not
concerned with the amalgam of phenomena that need to be kept separate. Yet, I
want to call to memory that the practice of tatooing the inmates in Auschwitz was
possibly regarded as a “normal” and economical form of regulating the
incorporation of the deported ones into the camp. The biopolitical tatoo imposed
upon us today when we want to travel into the United States is the baton of what
we might accept tomorrow as the normal way of registering into the mechanism
and the transmission of the state if we want to be identified as good citizens.

Frank,

How about this:

In the attached essay by Giorgio Agamben, Agamben observes that, "the citizen is thus rendered a suspect all along, a suspect against which all those techniques and installations need to be mounted that had orginally been conceived of only for the most dangerous individuals." Certainly, following the terrorist attacks, this has been the case. But is it a justifiable course of action? Is the state, in treating citizens as suspects only revealing its own impotence when it comes to defending them? Without the ability to guarantee the safety of those under it, can the modern state retain its legitimacy; and, if so, how?

Thursday March 26-- Progress part deux

Hello everyone,
Thanks to everyone who came out for oppression, no thanks to me, of course. Now you see the violence inherent in the system.
Tapping philosophy will be occurring this week on WEDNESDAY, WEDNESDAY, WEDNESDAY, at 8:00 at Yeat’s pub, with rides leaving from Connelly at 7:30. ON WEDNESDAY. Because I want to watch the basketball game.
This episode of Tapping philosophy is dedicated to Robert McNamara, who wrote on this same topic last year, when I was holed up in the library.
Progress (Part Deux)
Obligatory quotes:
“Communism for us is not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from premises now in existence.”
-Karl Marx, The German Ideology
“The more strongly the culture industry entrenches itself, the more it can do as it chooses with the needs of the consumers—producing, controlling, disciplining them; even withdrawing amusement altogether; here no limits are set to cultural progress.”
“By sacrificing thought, which in its reified form as mathematics, machinery, organization, avenges on itself a humanity forgetful of it, enlightenment failed its own realization. By subjecting everything particular to its discipline, it left the uncomprehended whole free to rebound as mastery over things against the life and consciousness of human beings… The mythical scientific respect of peoples for a given reality, which they themselves create finally becomes a positive fact, a fortress before which even the revolutionary imagination feels shamed as utopianism, and degenerates to a compliant trust in the objective tendency of history.”
Thedor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment
“Even in its rudimentary form, the theory [of class] was not merely the most effective tool of agitation, but active instrument of conflict in the age of bourgeois democracy, the proletarian mass party, and strikes, before the open victory of monopoly and the growth of unemployment became second nature. Only the revisionists entered into a discussion of the class question, and they did so to in order to cloak the initial stages of betrayal with the denial of class war, their statistical appreciation of the middle strata, and their praise of a generalized progress.”
Theodor Adorno, “Reflections on Class Theory”
“You know the notion of progress is not a simple notion, not at all. During all the 19th century, intellectuals, artists and political activists were in the conviction that there exists something like a "political progress". Today, we know that it's not so simple. We have really to understand that sometimes under the name of progress, we have, in fact, something that is often against human life, against human beings, against millions of people of several countries. The dialectical relationship between progress and tradition is completely different today as it was during all the 19th century”
-Alain Badiou, interviewed

Badiou was right about something: progress is not so simple. Rob was kind enough to delineate two different kinds of progress, both of which are exhibited within the quotes above, and these are philosophical progress and social/human progress. For those of you who weren’t there, I attached the topic as it was written by rob for reference. My idea is very simple, and it is that we discuss the relationship between the two ideas of progress as Rob had previously defined them for our convenience.
To be more specific, is there a relation between scientific, socioeconomic, technological progress and the progress of ideas, culture, and philosophy? If so what does it look like, and is one component necessary for the other to occur? The standard “enlightenment” narrative tends to assume that the two occur in tandem and are in fact of the same essential category (Hegel fits nicely). For Marx economic progress is what determines history, and all other progress follows from it. For Adorno, progress is really an agent of a destructive downward spiral, i.e. monopoly capitalism, as well as the ideological reflection of the sameness of exploitation. In all of these cases progress is somehow linked between the social/economic/technological and the philosophical/cultural, whether it’s a lie or the way the world works. This means that simply questioning “the reality” of progress on the grounds that it is philosophically unsound won’t be enough, because progress can function without a strict empirical counterpart, by informing people’s practices and beliefs.
Is it enough to say that cultural progress and socioeconomic progress co determine each other, or are there specific instances within history where progress in one area has directly caused progress in another? Can such instances be read as indices for a theory that concerns the patterns of history as well as the future, or is the intersection of history with the disparate possibilities of the present moment too detailed or unstable to expect any underlying linear structures of progress to be at work? In other words, is this idea of progress too simplistic and instrumental, by eliminating the dynamic capacities of the individual as a historical actor, or some unforeseen circumstances?
As a caveat, part of the discussion of progress hinges on our ability to have a conversation about a shared history of events, ideas, cultures, institutions, and peoples. It also hinges on our ability to think normatively about these things based on a set of shared, even though somewhat contested, criteria. I’m not saying this because I want this to be a history lesson for everyone. I’m also not saying that there aren’t instances of marginalization in history; indeed there are plenty that can be brought to bear within the evaluative framework as I have proposed, whether or not they have been historically. I’m merely proposing these limits to keep the absurdity levels to a minimum.
Rob's Topic:
_______
Hey all,

In his infinite wisdom, Frank has allowed me to coordinate the last two Tapping Philosophy meetings of the semester. This week, we will be discussing progress.

Basically I would like to break our question into two parts which are undoubtedly interrelated: progress within philosophy and social/human progress.

PHILOSOPHICAL PROGRESS

Utilizing the generally accepted Western narrative that Plato and Aristotle are the founders of philosophy, has philosophy progressed in any real way since its Grecian roots? Is the discipline of philosophy any closer now to obtaining any more real or more practical truths about the world or life, itself, than it was in its infancy? Is this the way in which we should be judging philosophical progress, or should progress be judged in some other way, or does philosophical progress even make sense as a theory? Philosophers such as Hegel and his dialectical reasoning would undoubtedly assert that actual progress can be and is made, while Kant would say that philosophers can only talk of how things appear to us and we can make no progress towards a more complete understanding of things-in-themselves.

SOCIAL/HUMAN PROGRESS

In today's society, we constantly hear about progress, the progress of global democracy, the progress of medicine, the progress of technology; in the second half of our discussion I would like to discuss what this progress is and why it is considered a stock Good. Is total human progress possible, or can progress only be understood in terms of groups of people gaining an advantage over other groups? Does having three TVs, two cars, and a Nintendo Wii really make one's life better, or does our assumption that commercial and technological progress is a stock Good cloud our capability to reflect on whether we are actually better off newer, 'better', and fancier stuff? Is progress an essential human need, or is it a contrivance, I suppose is the essential question here.
__________

Thursday March 19- Tapping: Oppression

From Christina Bernardo --




Hey guys,
Tapping is this Thursday at 8:00pm, 7:30 for rides. and as always we will be at Yeats.

Oppression

"The experience of oppressed people is that the living of one's life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restriction or penalize motion in an direction." Marilyn Frye

What is oppression and when is it simply human suffering rather than systematic submissiveness? I figure that would be a good place to start and maybe after (if ever) we define what true oppression is we can define who are the oppressors vs the oppressed. For instance, am I an oppressor of African Americans because I'm white? Obviously I'm not directly oppressing African-Americans (I hope you know me better than that) but I do benefit from white privilege. Does that make me an oppressor?

Best,
Christina

Thursday March 12-- Tapping Philosophy: Modernity

Hi Everyone,
Welcome back from break. Thanks to everyone who came out for womanhood. Sorry for the late email, I've been sick. Tapping philosophy will take place at it's normal time and place, 8:00 Thursday Yeat's pub, meeting for rides at Connelly around 7:30. Charles' topic looks to be both exciting and challenging! While I will not be able to make it myself, I'm confident this topic will generate a good discussion.

Philosophy in the Modern Age.

What is philosophy, or more specifically what is it in the modern era. Throughout history, each philosopher has given their own definition, from Plato’s relatively straightforward (and incredibly bitter) declaration in the Phaedo that it is “preparation for death” to Hegel’s “its time held in thought” (Phenomenology of Spirit). Yet these are only interesting points in the road. In the modern era of information where many news networks use advertisements which argue that “knowledge is power”, is it possible to imagine philosophy as any pursuit of truth as distinct from power? If not, is the modern man then necessarily trapped in what Strauss called the “joyless quest for joy”?

In the era of information is it possible that the democratization of information will lead to an increasingly democratic politics, where the power of majority faction slowly replaces republican liberty as the foundation for the modern political regime? If so, then is this information -- this power -- still an adequate basis for philosophy?

This is just the beginning of our problem. It is my position that in modernity, philosophy’s function is essentially political and that since political existence in a state necessitates information and knowledge of information (since it inevitably finds its way into political debate), philosophy must remain -- contrary to Richard Rorty’s arguments -- a system of studying, commenting on, and criticizing arguments raised by the social and (yes, even) hard sciences.

At the same time, the philosophers must know what it is that they are commenting on and questioning. So is the role of philosophy in the modern age then truly that of politics, that of the beautiful incomprehensible unreachable beyond, or that of the beyond as accessed in time?

These are just some of the questions that are floating around. But I’ll leave you with Rorty’s provocation to consider:

"From my point of view, it was very unfortunate that Marx, a great political economist, majored in philosophy . . . . I don't think anything I learned in philosophy school has been of any relevance to my changes in political views or my betterance of political deliberation."

Are Rorty’s political views and deliberations defective, or as they should be? Without a philosophy linked to politics, are we trapped in a “joyless quest for joy”?
-----

Wed Feb 18--Tapping Philosophy: Womanhood

Hi Tapping,
Thanks to everyone who came out last week for culture. I thought we had a great discussion. Christina is responsible for this week's topic on womanhood, in response to manhood. I said that she should've called it manhood pt II but she didn't like that. We'll be meeting at 7:30 for rides in Connelly and at 8:00 at Yeat's Pub in Ardmore. Hope to see you there!

Love and Peace,
FP


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Christina Bernardo
Date: Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 5:29 PM
Subject: Is Philosophy a Boys Club?
To: "anom1k@gmail.com"

"Philosophy is a boy's club" Frank Prior

"For a long time I have hesistated to write a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially to women; and it is not new" Simone DeBeauvoir in the Introduction to the Second Sex

"The offspring produced by a female are sometimes female, sometimes male, because the female is as it were a deformed male."

"The rule of the soul over the body is natural, [which makes] the male by nature superior and the female inferior; the one rules and the other is ruled. The courage of man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying."
Aristotle On the Generation of Animals

Last semester, as many of you probably remember, we had a topic on manhood. I think its about time we have a tapping on 'the second sex'. To be a woman has meant a number of different things throughout history. Some of the great canonical philosophers have spoken of the role of women as a natural inherent trait rather than a conventional post. Aristotle claimed women lacked the ability to deliberate while Rousseau claimed that Sophie, the ideal woman was best suited for household work, such as cooking, cleaning, and tending to the children. Rousseau suggested that women should be educated in conversation and socialability rather than philosophy or science. Kant claimed that a woman who studies the Greeks might as well grow a beard.

Where are we, as people, currently standing on this issue? Has our society outgrown the petty expectations derived from supposed natural ability, or not? Or am I jumping the gun, perhaps women are, by nature, more apt to certain roles rather than others- but how do we make this distinction? And how much of these characteristics (weak, submissive, body oriented, emotional, etc.) shape the roles women play as mothers, professionals, students, etc. Are women still in the position of 'the second sex' ? Are these societal roles chosen, encouraged, or expected? Do women have a naturally submissive role in social relations? Is this reflective of the society we live in? Are women a minority in number of voices (as we see in philosophy) though not in actual number of people? And why is it frustrating to talk about the conventional standards of womanhood?

Christina



"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
-Jacques Anatole Fran├žois Thibault
(from The Red Lily, 1894)



--
Francis Prior
Villanova Philosophy Club Website
http://tappingphilosophy.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Minutes:
http://villanovapst.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Conference Website:
http://anom1k.googlepages.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tapping Philosophy: Culture

Hi Tapping,

Thanks to everyone who came out for consciousness last week. I heard you all had a great discussion, no thanks to me. I'm happy to hear that things went well without my presence. This Thursday we'll be running rides from Connelly at 7:30, and meeting at Yeats at 8:00.



This week's topic is my own doing.



CULTURE:

So first I'm going to give some historical background to frame the word culture with a little help from my friend Raymond Williams, in order to address the difficulty of this topic. Etymologically, culture derives from the Latin word colere, which can mean many things including: to inhabit, cultivate, protect, or honor with worship. According to Williams, culture has a classical agricultural meaning that denotes "intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic development," (cultivation of the self or humanity in general) a modern meaning which denotes the particular way of life that a group of people that can be contrasted to other groups in a value laden way (civilized vs barbarians), and finally a contemporary meaning as a value neutral umbrella term used to refer to art, music, poetry, etc. It's also worth noting that this does not even cover the various ways in which culture is used within academic disciplines, which have their own specific uses of the term, which may or may not match up with any of the vulgar ones that I just mentioned. Therefore, when discussing culture, we must be aware that the ground is unstable, with its various usages between and within languages blurring, overlapping, and diverging. Tread carefully.



I think all it will take to fuel this discussion is one deceptively simple question:



What is the relationship between culture and human experience?



If we came even close to answering this question, that would be acceptable.


Perhaps I hinge too much on human experience with this formulation. However, I think we can all agree that understanding human experience is of central concern.



If that's not enough, I suppose we could delineate different aspects of all the different definitions of culture that we could come up with. We could talk about the various evaluations of cultures and participations within cultures. We could even talk about ideology if you want, as a sort of motivated culture.



Nevertheless, I think one question is enough. You may differ.



Love and Peace,

FP

Tapping Philosophy: Consciousness

Hi Tapping,
I PITY the fool who didn't come to tapping last week. Christina has written this week's topic, which is consciousness. It will make your head explode. Meet in Connelly center at 7:30 for rides, or Yeats at 8:00 on Thursday.

Love and Peace,
FP

Consciousness

What is consciousness?

How can consciousness exist? Does consciousness rely on an external world around us? Can having a consciousness infringe on our ability to be conscious

Descartes is the granddaddy of consciousness and he mainly defines it through self-awareness or reflexive thought. I think it would be interesting to ask why consciousness has evolved in human beings. The awareness we have of ourselves and of our abilities enables some humans to do extraordinary things. We can construct buildings, examine the molecular biology of moss, or write symphonies—what is their (if any) evolutionary reason for this kind of understanding?

I think another interesting direction we could go with this is where Descartes leaves off. Part of Descartes' analysis blends the focal points of consciousness into indistinct parts where Sartre redefines consciousness into two basic forms: 1) consciousness that is focused on an object or an idea (i.e., I think therefore I am) or 2) consciousness focused on the state of thinking that I'm in. Sartre is clear in saying that these two states cannot bleed into each other; the subject is always held apart from the object.

This brings up another series of questions, and the one I find to be the most interesting is how we perceive ourselves subjectively while living in a world where objective things exist in a realm that no one is able to recognize absolutely. How can we examine this phenomenological experience? How do we draw line between a mental representation and an actual event? Does our subjective consciousness allow us to rationalize objects or events as different than how they happened in reality? Where does reality and subjectivity meet? Or can consciousness only exist with an external world around us?

Nietzsche would argue (more eloquently and with different wording) that most of the time many of us walk around lacking an actual conscious will. While we are always conscious in the strict biological sense of the word, many times we go through the motions in our own lives without consciously considering the weight of our actions or what it is we are doing? Or is going through the motions a form of consciousness? Is individual consciousness reliant on social relations, norms or ideologies? Is our idea of who we are and our interests imaginary? Can we lose consciousness?

What about the relationship between consciousness and language? Does a smaller vocabulary limit your self-awareness? Does your awareness of your self and how you identify yourself play a role in how your consciousness behaves? For instance, we all want to think of ourselves as good people, but does our consciousness promotes this by seemingly limiting or options for things through rationalizing our identity through what we do or by leaving out parts of the story that are dissonant with the theme?





The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.

Sigmund Freud



To be conscious means not simply to be, but to be reported, known, to have awareness of one's being added to that being.

William James



Analysis brings no curative powers in its train; it merely makes us conscious of the existence of an evil, which, oddly enough, is consciousness.

Henry Miller



Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.

Simone Weil

--
Francis Prior
Villanova Philosophy Club Website
http://tappingphilosophy.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Minutes:
http://villanovapst.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Conference Website:
http://anom1k.googlepages.com

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tapping Philosophy: Summaries?

Hi Tapping,
I've decided to stop writing summaries at least temporarily. I've got a lot of obligations both in and out of school. If someone else wants to write them and submit them to me, that's fine, but time is tight for me right now. I'll still post the topics as I have mailed them out. If anyone has any questions comments concerns or complaints, please email me.

Tapping Philosophy: Pity

Hi Tapping,
Thanks to everyone who came out last week to discuss the relation between the student and the teacher. I thought it was a great topic, kudos to Charles for bringing it up. We'll be meeting this week at our usual time and place, thursdays eight o clock, at Yeats pub, and we will be running rides from Connelly at 7:30.

This weeks topic:

PITY.


"When Nature gave man tears,
She proclaimed that he was tender hearted"
--Mandeville
"Mandeville clearly sensed that for all their morality, men would never have been anything but monsters if Nature had not given them pity in support of reason: but he did not see that from this single attribute flow all the social virtues he wants to deny men. Indeed, what are generosity, Clemency, Humanity, if not pity applied to the weak, the guilty, or the species in general?"
--Rousseau
"Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality: it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity. That loss of strength which suffering as such inflicts on life is still further increased and multiplied by pity. Pity makes suffering contagious."
--Nietzsche

Rousseau talks about two values being at the center of man's existence, and these are self interest (the desire to avoid suffering?) and disgust at the suffering of others. The emotional extension of this visceral reaction would then be pity. What does it feel like to pity someone? Does pity beget solidarity or superiority? When is pity helpful and when is it damaging? Rousseau takes a very critical stance against rationalist narratives of society, claiming that philosophers are able to rationalize themselves out of behaving with respect to their natural inclinations of pity, which would otherwise drive them to help those who are in dire situations. He chiefly cites the emotional connection between the mother and child as that of pity should the child be suffering. Natural instincts he argued, hold society together in a way that is more meaningful and functional than any argument.

So what do we think of this? Does pity play a central role, or any role at all, in organizing society? Does pity necessarily lead to help coming from the pitying party? Does pity conflict with rationality, or is it possible to take pity as a premise for rational behavior? An uglier way of putting this might be, could pity be based in self interest? Is pity really what drives mothers to act on behalf of their child, and is that relationship a sound model for how a society should be organized (it's certainly not the traditional western one ::ahem::)? There may be a bigger question at hand than simply pity itself, i.e. where does emotion end and rationality begin in political discourse, or how can the two be dialectically related in order to promote the betterment of society?

Within the context of a discussion there's not much of a bigger boo boo than substituting emotion for argument. However, for Rousseau, there's a bigger context than a discussion that's at stake, where power is operative, and rationality may not survive alone.

Tapping Philosophy: Student Teacher Disconnect

Hello everyone,
Welcome back. I hope you all have enjoyed your break. Christina and I will go over some logistics, and hopefully we'll see some new faces (and some old ones too). This week, and likely most weeks thereafter, tapping philosophy will meet on THURSDAYS at Yeats' pub in Ardmore at 8:00, meeting in Connelly at 7:30 for rides. Charles P Myers has written this week's topic.

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Frank,

It was once said that "brevity is the soul of wit." While I do not claim the latter with this topic as it is written, I do lay claim to the former.

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"From the beginnings of Western philosophy in Plato and Aristotle there have been several noticeable divides between the great philosophers, and their students who have (at times) also been great philosophers. In modernity we have several examples; namely, the (debatable) disconnect between the philosophy of Strauss and his Neoconservative students; the one between Marxism as Marx iterated it, and Marxism as followed by his followers; the disconnect between Marx and Hegel; and the disagreement between Arendt and Heidegger over phenomenology. So for this week's Tapping, the question is: what causes these divides between the philosopher and their students and does one need even to study directly under a philosopher to be a student of their thought? Are these students then gifted with a special understanding of their teacher's opinion, or do their disagreements come from a failure of communication? Are disagreements sometimes a combination of both, or should they be judged entirely on a case by case basis?"