What I wrote for POMO
October 9, 2008

by pegleghippie. 

I know it seems i don’t write anymore, but its just that I’ve been writing a shitload for school.  Wednesday I wrote three papers.  Yeah.  Three.  and they kicked ass.  I write a small novel’s worth of material on a weekly basis.

Anyway, since I don’t have much time to blog, I thought I’d post my class notes from one of my philosophy classes.  Take it as you will.

So in this class we talked mostly about Bataille, who is pretty much a mascot for us at this point. 

We started out with how the crush freaks are performing animal sacrifice, and how this was just a modern version of what ancient cultures did.  We also talked about how Bataille described sado-machochism is modern human sacrifice, while more generally, deviant sexuality is filling a general religious role.  This lead to Cs’ weird thought:
“Reproduction of [the crush freaks video] is like printing the bible.  The bug is the Christ figure”
I think C may be onto something here.  While sure, it is pretty much pornos being produced, the only reason there is a market for these videos is because people are feeling that sort of transcendent connection to these bugs, they’re identifying with them. 
This led us to discussing the sacrificial nature of the religious experience, with R saying,
“religion is the destruction of the individual” 
What he meant was that the individual gets lost in the group and the experience.  Animal sacrifice serves as a nice metaphor for this since it involved something very valuable being given up.  We talked about the meaning of the word “sacrifice,” and how it denoted loss automatically.  To emphasize the sense of identity, and not just property, that was lost, Dr. T said, 
“the property has to be so valuable that losing it is a loss of at least some self.”
This reminds me of the story of Cain and Able in the old testament, where Cain’s sacrifice is deemed unworthy by Jahweh because it was second rate property.
3One day, Cain gave part of his harvest to the LORD, 4and Abel also gave an offering to the LORD. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the LORD the best parts of it. The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering,5but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.  6The LORD said to Cain:


   What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. [c] But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. 

(Genesis 4:3-4.7, Contemporary English version, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%204;&version=46;)
Dr. T mentioned a similar story from Hinduism: it seems that the idea of sacrifice being a valuable personal loss is prevalent across religions.  This supports Bataille’s idea that sacrifice is an attempt to escape oneself and to connect to something more continuous.
We also talked about a paradox with regards to objectification:  Being objectified violates our sense of self, and makes us feel less-than-subjective.  At the same time, our own subjectiveness only emerges when we have an objective sense to define it against.  An “I” and a “not I.”  This is the uncomfortable part of consciousness, which led us to desire.
Desire arises when our undifferentiated consciousness (which does not suffer the objective paradox) experiences the addition of objectivity.  Slipping in and out of this “auto-hypnosis,” this “Bhudda mind,” we go about our lives.  Dr. T said there were a few different ways to do this:
 “War is a form of sacrifice.  So is capitalism, which is basically consumerism.  Consuming is a form of sacrifice.”
The mention of economics led us to discuss Bataille’s concepts of economy.  K already posted on this, but basically he defined a general economy, with infinite consumption, contrasted with a restricted economy where the consumers are aware of limits.  He was more interested in how different cultures made use of their excess resources than with how they dealt with scarce resources.  
This led to mentioning the idea of pot latch, where native americans would either give something away or destroy it.  We talked about how eating something was destroying it, and how a pot luck in modern times did pretty much the same thing.  
T then asked:
“isn’t all this desire talk a new foundation?” [remember, pomo is anti-foundationalist]
to which Dr. T responded,
“Bataille is like walking into a junkyard.  We are playing with these ideas, don’t be so serious.”
I’ve actually been thinking that the philosophy we’ve been looking at has a non-serious attitude to it.  A lack of seriousness doesn’t mean we don’t work hard, that we don’t accomplish what we set out to do, or that we dismiss other people.  
But nothing has to get us so worked up that we start defining ourselves by it permanently.  It also means we don’t have much room for regret in our lives.  Whatever we do, whatever we philosophize about, it is neither significant nor insignificant.  It’s just something we do, or something we did, that is if we remember it at all.  So when we are aware, we shouldn’t fear enjoying ourselves,  or jumping headfirst into whatever comes our way, cause, in the end, what are we worried about?
What about this idea of a non-serious approach to philosophy?  Can an attitude undermine our field, or does it make philosophy less boring, more engaging?  Are there any consequences to light-heartedness that we should take seriously, and if so, why?

Burning Quick and Loving it
August 28, 2008

by pegleghippie

Classes are hard.  And I mean harder than they’ve been in the past.  All of my time has been devoted to class related activities for the last few days, and when I take a break to do something else, I fall behind.  That’s right, its the first week and I’m already behind.

At the same time, this may be the most enjoyable combination of classes that I’ve ever had.  Four of my five classes pertain to either my major or one of my minors, and I think all four of those are going to be memorable and exciting.  The fifth (economics) isn’t too bad either–I like the professor, I’m interested in the subject matter, and comparatively, it’s my easy class.

I transfered out of a useless public speaking class and into a government class taught by one of my Switzerland professors.  It’s about peace and conflict.  A friend of mine at another school is majoring in conflict resolution, but my school doesn’t offer that, and I figured this class would be the closest I could get. So far it’s involved examinations of how peacekeeping efforts can minimize unpleasant cultural side effects.  That means it’s 30 people discussing how to be peaceful.  It’s classes like this that make me feel like I’m at home in a classroom.

Leadership inspires a lot of what I blog about, and I have two leadership classes this semester.  One has been transformed from it’s regular approach of teaching how change works socially to examining the presidential race (you know, cause change is Obama’s slogan).  The other is on the history of leadership.  So both are about examining politicians and what they did.  Hopefully we still work in lots of leadership theory and methods.

Then I’ve got a class on postmodernist philosophy.  I like it so far, I’m beginning to understand what postmodernism really is (hint:  it’s antifoundationalism).  The class isn’t run like any other class I’ve ever seen.  For the first time ever, I am absolutely sure that psychadelic drugs will improve my work greatly in a class.  They’ll also make it fun as hell, but it’s not the first time that has happened.

So yeah, if I can control all that, all i’ve gotta do is balance in two (maybe three) clubs, a part time job, and being an SGA senator.  Free time and sleep is for underachievers anyway.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I got up this early so I could study (2 chapters of leadership and 3 journal articles in pomo catches me up to today’s assignments.)

Libertarians? Thoughts on Economics
July 3, 2008

by pegleghippie

So Libertarians fundamentally believe that people should be left alone, right?  But then Libertarians are almost always defenders of capitalism, even predatory supercapitalism

I’m sorry, but doesn’t capitalism boil down to taking what you can, from who you can, before someone gets to you?  Sort of like a big contrived game of legalized assault on other people’s well-being? 

Sure I’m simplifying here.  Trade, ideally, is an agreement where both parties benefit, and markets are the effective mechanism whereby private ownership of goods utilizes trade, largely based on the given variables of supply and demand.  None of those things scream, “cut your mother’s throat for your next meal.”  That’s how capitalism is usually explained, and that’s usually what libertarians defend.  What does scream of throat-cutting, however is that trade is almost never ideal.  Everyone wants the best deal for themselves, at the lowest cost to themselves.  So people lie, cheat, and steal, and cut throats.  In other words, they don’t really leave each other alone at all.

A plain old non-libertarian capitalist may respond by saying, “sure, nobody is an island, nobody is really left alone, that’s kind of the point.  The rest of the point is that with markets and a stable rule of law, everybody will be in a position to demand the best deal for themselves, people will compromise with each other, fair deals, more or less, will take place, and we’ll all benefit as autonomous individuals coming together voluntarily for those things that are of common interest, namely, the markets.”

So, hypothetical capitalist (I know this looks like a straw man argument here, but honestly, I want an answer to this question, so if anyone wants to step into the shoes of the man of straw here, be my guest), what about those areas that are of interest to just one or a few autonomous individuals, and nobody wants to trade?  This is where I see the throat-cutting coming in to play.  Hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan started lynching people just as soon as the market on humans was closed for good in this country. 

Maybe my last example is what libertarians are getting at.  No one deserves to be lynched, so KKK, have some respect for the individual and just leave people alone already.  Fine, that’s reasonable enough.  By the same token, though, the flow of money and trade effect people’s lives on a life-or-death basis daily.  Where is the respect of the corporation for the factory worker when a factory goes to Indonesia?  Where is the respect of that same corporation for the Indonesian worker who works 14 hour days in a sweatshop?  These seem like raw deals, issues where trade goes badly for one party, and super-awesome for another.  People lives get interfered with, without voluntary coming together, without consent, without any exchange over common interest.

So we’re back to square one.  Capitalism can be used to greatly interfere with people’s lives, violating the “leave me alone” principle.  Libertarians defend this system, and argue that democratically-elected governments can only interfere in small amounts, saying that (drumroll pllleeeeaaaasssse!) the government isn’t leaving people alone (I know there are economic arguments against all manners of regulation, here I am specifically addressing the hypocracy on the “leave me alone” Principle). 

I call bullshit.  Either you’re for an evolving system that protects people and their relative freedom from preditors of all kinds:  criminals, government totalitarianism, as well as other individuals (rich and poor), and large conglomerates.  Or you’re for various entities always trying to get the best of each other; mostly working together voluntarily because of equal bargaining grounds, but sometimes using one-sided information or power to take advantage of others for a large gain. The first is a position that values universal liberty (leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone).  The second values personal liberty , to the exclusion of the liberty of others (leave me alone long enough for me to stab you in the back). 

Before everyone rises up and tells me that there’s way more than two political economies that one can support, let me just say that I realize this.  I’m addressing the capitalist-libertarian dichotimy specifically, and how someone who defines themselves as such must choose just how much the “leave me alone” principle applies to them, and whether they take such a notion seriously or not.

Quantifying Rationality
April 21, 2008

by pegleghippie

This post may be a bit all over the place, and It will definitely be on the heavy side, so strap in now or get out of the car.

strap in

Now I know that the motto for this blog is “building irrationality.”  I’m going to do the opposite.  Sorry Mekhami, sorry Teslanaut, but my purpose here is to make the idea of a ‘rational individual’ a little more concrete.

Some of you may see my phrase-choice ‘rational individual’ and think of economics.  Good job!  That’s what I was thinking of too when I came up with these ideas.  Bear in mind that I have not formally studied economics in depth, so the following may be old news, but it’s so specific, and only briefly touches on the field of economics, that I doubt I’ll be committing any Faux Pas’ here.