Digitage on Barbara Kruger's Nature/Culture Barbara Krueger’s (1983) “We Won’t Play Nature to your Culture” somehow comes to mind when reading Žižek on nature/culture.

During breaks I would walk through empty rooms to discover changes curators had made in their spaces. I was a teenager when I began to feel at home in the silent, often light-filled buildings that held public art collections. I was annoyed by, resented, then was intrigued by, read about, studied, spent time with pieces that came to be my favourites. Visual artists were deeply informed about and experimenting with emerging, complex theories, cultural studies, political philosophy . . . academics did their best to avoid them until it became impossible to do so.

Reading Slavoj Žižek’s Organs without Bodies is a lot like my non-linear NGC meanderings in the 1990s. His writing provokes me but there is enough brilliance there that makes me keep his book in the reading stand beside my monitor, opened at different pages on different days. He is not a lazy thinker. Each page is like a hypertext reader indexing a myriad of artists, philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs. He discusses Hawkins, Hegel, Heidegger and Hitchcock with equal comfort because he has actually ‘read’ and analysed’ their work.

I was drawn to his chapter section on hyphen-ethics more because of the probing, unsettling questions it raises than because of his conclusions. It will be one of those recurring themes that will be part of my own lifelong teaching, learning and research.

“What is false with todays discussion concerning the ethical consequences of biogenetics is that it is rapidly turning into what Germans call Bindenstrich-Ethik, the ethics of the hyphen – technology-ethics, environment-ethics, and so on. This ethics does have a role to play, a role homologous to that of the provisional ethic Descartes mentions at the beginning of his Discourse on Method: when we engage on a new path, full of dangers and shattering new insights, we need to stick to old established rules as a practical guide for our daily lives, although we are well aware that the new insights will compel us to provide a fresh foundation for our entire ethical edifice (in Descartes case, this new foundation was provided by Kant, in his ethics of subjective autonomy). Today, we are in the same predicament: the provisional ethics cannot replace the need for a thorough reflection of the emerging New (Žižek 2004:123).”

“In short, what gets lost here, in this hyphen-ethics, is simply ethics as such. The problem is not that universal ethics gets dissolved in particular topics but, on the contrary, that particular scientific breakthroughs are directly confronted with the old humanist “values” (say, how biogenetics affects our sense of dignity and autonomy). This, then, is the choice we are confronting today: either we choose the typically postmodern stance of reticence (let’s not go to the end, let’s keep a proper distance toward the scientific Thing so that this Thing will not draw us into a black hole, destroying all our moral and human notions), or we dare to “tarry with the negative (das Verweilen beim Negativen),” that is, we dare to fully examine the consequences of scientific modernity with the wager that “our Mind is a genome” will also function as an infinite judgment (Žižek 2004:123-4).”

“The main consequence of the scientific breakthrough in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of its construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is thus “desubstantialized,” deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called “earth.” Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation, is therefore effectively a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the “danger” inherent to modern technology. Crucial here is the interdepedence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right. Humanity itself relies on some notion of “human nature” as what we inherited and was simply given to us, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is thus that there is man only insofar as there is inhuman nature (Heidegger’s “earth”). (Žižek 2004:124).”

Notes
Slavoj Žižek is a dialectical-materialist philosopher and psychoanalyst. He also co-directs the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College. The Parallax View appeared last year.

Webliography and Bibliography

Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.

Titles >> Subtitles: Organs without Bodies >> on Deleuze and Consequences >> Consequences >> Science >> Cognitivism with Freud, Autopoiesis, Memes, Memes Everywhere, Against Hyphen-Ethics, Cognitive Closure?, “Little Jolts of Enjoyment”,

folksonomy: cultural studies, theory, philosophy, Deleuze, globalization, democracy, democratization, war on terror, Joan Copjec, biogenetics, hyphen-ethics, capitalism, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Dennett, ethics, Ethical turn, Habermas, Kant, Laclau, Levinas, Lacan, Varela, religion, Pascal, Spinoza, The Quite American, Hegel, Heidegger, Massumi, Fukuyama, liberal democracy, Self, personhood, ethics, mind/brain, mind body, psychoanalysis, nature/culture, technology, mind and consciousness,

More by Slavoj Žižek:

Žižek, Slavoj. 2003. “Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket: Slavoj Žižek welcomes the prospect of biogenetic intervention.” London Review of Books. 25:10. May.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. “Attempts to Escape the Logic of Capitalism.” Review of Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts by John Keane.” London Review of Books. 21:21. October 28.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. ‘You May!’ London Review of Books. 21:6. 18 March.

Nonoverlapping magisteria NOMA

November 12, 2007


The crisis of academic disciplines in the late 20th century was fuelled by the blurring of boundaries between disciplines. Social sciences and humanities were accused of physics envy as they argued for legitimacy of their truth claims, their ontologies, methodologies, epistemologies . . . More recently investigations into the axiological dimension of academic disciplines have increased. So where does this leave Stephen Jay Gould’s notion of nonoverlapping magisteria?

How much simpler our world would be if we could neatly divide complex questions into nonoverlapping categories, states into nonoverlapping topographies, identities into nonoverlapping communities and cultures.

Neither Gould or Sagan argued for simplicity. As popularizers of science their controversial work situated them in a highly visible spotlight that was not always kind.

Stephen Jay Gould argued for “a respectful, even loving concordat” between science and religion which he called the NOMA [nonoverlapping magisteria] solution. “NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectua] grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions [. . .] The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven (Gould 1997).”

Paul Davies November 24, 2007 Op-Ed entitled “Taking Science on Faith” in the New York Times was one of the most emailed of the day. Davies, who is the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life argued that, ””The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified (Davies 2007 ).”

To be continued . . .

Timeline of related events

1911- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921) a Persian seer from a noble family imprisoned for decades for his beliefs, upon his release from prison, spent several years travelling and lecturing in Paris, London, New York, Montreal . . . before his death in 1921. In one of his well-attended and well-documented lectures in Paris he declared, “Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism (‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1911? [1969:143]).” Citations from these lectures which were covered by major contemporary mass media are now available from many sources on the web.

1911- “When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles–and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God (‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1911? [1969:146]).”

1922 The words of `Abdu’l-Bahá, Persian seer and central figure of the Baha’i World Faith, were published. `Abdu’l-Bahá declared that, “If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance,and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.”

1936 Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded by Roman Catholic Pope Pius XI, who wished to surround himself with a select group of scholars, relying on them to inform the Vatican in complete freedom about developments in scientific research, and thereby to assist him in his reflections (NCSE 2002 ).

1950 Pope Pius XII (not one of Gould’s favorite figures in twentieth-century history) pronounced his encyclical entitled Humani Generis in which he declared that “Catholics could believe whatever science determined about the evolution of the human body, so long as they accepted that, at some time of his choosing, God had infused the soul into such a creature (Gould 1997). “The Magisterium of the Church has already made pronouncements on these matters within the framework of her own competence. [. . . ] In his Encyclical Humani generis (1950), [Pope] Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points (cf. AAS 42 [1950], pp. 575-576) (NCSE 2002 )”.

1981 Pope John Paul II in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 3 October 1981 clarified that, “Cosmogony itself speaks to us of the origins of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationship of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth, it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The sacred book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and makeup of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven (NCSE 2002).”

1984 Stephen Jay Gould joined with a group of French and Italian Jesuit priests who were also professional scientists, participated in a meeting on nuclear winter sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He referred to conversations on evolution at that time that resulted in his 1997 essay. Carl Sagan organized and attended the Vatican meeting that introduced Stephen Jay Gould’s essay entitled “Nonoverlapping Magisteria“. Carl Sagan and Gould shared a concern for a “fruitful cooperation between the different but vital realms of science and religion (Gould 1997).”

1993 Pope John Paul II addressd the Pontifical Academy of Sciences plenary assembly on October 31, 1992. He addressed debates surrounding Galileo, drawing attention to the need of a rigorous hermeneutic for the correct interpretation of the inspired word. It is necessary to determine the proper sense of Scripture, while avoiding any unwarranted interpretations that make it say what it does not intend to say. In order to delineate the field of their own study, the exegete and the theologian must keep informed about the results achieved by the natural sciences (cf. AAS 85 [1993] pp. 764-772; Address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, 23 April 1993, announcing the document on The interpretation of the Bible in the Church: AAS 86 [1994] pp. 232-243)(NCSE 2002).”

1996 Pope John Paul II clarified certain issues on the magistria of science and religion in his Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996 entitled “Magisterium is Concerned with Question of Evolution for it Involves Conception of Man.” “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world. a world in which both can flourish . . . Such bridging ministries must be nurtured and encouraged.” “[In 1996] fresh knowledge has led to the recognition that evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory. What is the significance of such a theory? To address this question is to enter the field of epistemology. A theory is a metascientific elaboration, distinct from the results of observation but consistent with them. By means of it a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation. A theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be verified, it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought. Furthermore, while the formulation of a theory like that of evolution complies with the need for consistency with the observed data, it borrows certain notions from natural philosophy. And, to tell the truth, rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based. Hence the existence of materialist, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations. What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology. The Church’s Magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:27-29). The conciliar Constitution Gaudium et spes has magnificently explained this doctrine, which is pivotal to Christian thought. It recalled that man is: the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake” (n. 24). In other terms, the human individual cannot be subordinated as a pure means or a pure instrument, either to the species or to society, he has value per se. He is a person. With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers. St Thomas observes that man’s likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God’s relationship with what he has created (Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1). But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfilment beyond time, in eternity. [. . .] Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person. With man, then, we find ourselves in the presence of an ontological difference, an ontological leap, one could say. However, does not the posing of such ontological discontinuity run counter to that physical continuity which seems to be the main thread of research into evolution in the field of physics and chemistry? Consideration of the method used in the various branches of knowledge makes it possible to reconcile two points of view which would seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure the multiple manifestations of life with increasing precision and correlate them with the time line. The moment of transition into the spiritual cannot be the object of this kind of observation, which nevertheless can discover at the experimental level a series of very valuable signs indicating what is specific to the human being. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-awareness and self-reflection, of moral conscience, freedom, or again, of aesthetic and religious experience, falls within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection while theology brings out its ultimate meaning according to the Creator’s plans (NCSE 2002).”

1997 Stephen Jay Gould published an entitled “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” later published in the journal Natural History in which he argued for “a respectful, even loving concordat” between science and religion which he called the NOMA [nonoverlapping magisteria] solution. “NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectua] grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions [. . .] The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven (Gould 1997).”

1997 Carl Sagan’s estate published Billions & Billions. Sagan cited Pope John Paul II on the magistria of science and religion in his proclamation of October 1996. “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world. a world in which both can flourish . . . Such bridging ministries must be nurtured and encouraged.”

2007 Canadian secular philosopher and author of The Taming of Chance and honorary professor at the Collège de France, Ian Hacking, in his essay entitled “Root and Branch” published in The Nation, argued that the metaphor of a tree of life with linear roots, trunk and branches as used in genetic anthropology was inadequate. Classification, particularly in tiniest life forms such as fungi, is a mess. While his arguments against the anti-science perspective of hard Intelligent Design proponents, are convincing — and he clearly states he is atheist — he does not adopt a hard line approach such as Richard Dawkins and others whom he describes as destructive, “arrogant religion-baiters”. He provided a useful bibliography and timeline of events that led to the sociological phenomenon in the United States of widespread religious fundamentalism that informs contemporary debates on the roles of science and religion. Hacking considered Leibniz’ proposal “that the actual world is the one that combines the maximum of variety with the minimum of complexity for its fundamental laws. The “best” world, the world sought by the most intelligent designer, is one that maximizes variety in its phenomena and simplicity of basic law. Such a world has no place for a specific set of plans for the Arctic tern. The upshot is not attractive to those who favor intelligent design. It is in effect a proof that we live in a world of quantum-mechanical laws that are counterintuitive (to humans) but intrinsically simple–a world that, once these laws are in place, is then allowed to evolve out of a very few raw materials by chance and selection into unendingly complex patterns, including life on earth as we know it. It is a fact that you will get complex structures if you just let such systems run. The wisest designer would choose the governing laws and initial conditions that best capitalized on this mathematical fact. A stupid designer would have to arrange for all the intricate details (the Arctic tern again) that anti-Darwinians eulogize, but an intelligent designer would let chance and natural selection do the work. In other words, in the light of our present knowledge, we can only suppose that the most intelligent designer (I do not say there is one) would have to be a “neo-Darwinian” who achieves the extraordinary variety of living things by chance.”

Glossary of terms

magisterium (or teaching authority) derives from the concept of teaching (magister is Latin for “teacher”). Gould () refers to magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church in particular, and to the magisteria of religion and science in general.

NOMA (nonoverlapping magisteria) is a principle designated by Gould (1997) in which he argued that no conflict should exist [between science and religion because] each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority which do not overlap.

Key words, folksonomy, tags: science and religion, nonoverlapping magisteria, magisteria, See also: Morowitz: Alexander; constructs; ding an sich (thing in itself); epistemology; evolution; Immanuel Kant; Philo; transcendence

Webliography and Bibliography

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. 1922 [1982]. The Promulgation of Universal Peace. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. 2nd edition 1982, p. 181.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. [1969]. Paris Talks. London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. p. 143.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. [1969]. Paris Talks. London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. p. 146.

BIC (Baha’i International Community). 1999. “The Unity of Religion and Science.” >> Information about the Bahai Faith: Baha’i Topics is a service of the Baha’i International Community. http://info.bahai.org/article-1-3-2-18.html

Davies, Paul. 2007. “Taking Science on Faith.” Op-Ed New York Times. Published: November 24, 2007.

Gould, Stephen Jay. 1997. “Nonoverlapping Magisteria.” Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22; Reprinted on-line with permission from Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, New York: Harmony Books, 1998, pp. 269-283.

Hacking, Ian. 2007. “Root and Branch.” The Nation. October 8. Uploaded September 20. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071008/hacking

Sagan, Carl. 1997. Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. New York:Random House.

For further reading:

Turbott, John. 2004. “Religion, spirituality and psychiatry: steps towards rapprochement.” Australasian Psychiatry. 12:2:145-147. Objectives: “To consider the claim that there is a fundamental epistemological conflict between religion and psychiatry over what constitutes rational explanation, and what impediment this might be to rapprochement between the two. Conclusions: An epistemological gap most certainly exists, but there is a growing acceptance of the importance of religion and spirituality to psychiatry. Rapprochement may best be achieved by increasing psychiatric awareness and knowledge of the issues, and by a willingness to embrace intellectual, cultural and religious pluralism.

Turbott, John. “Religion, spirituality and psychiatry : conceptual, cultural and personal challenges.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

Abstract: Objective: “Recent psychiatric literature and contemporary sociopolitical developments suggest a need to reconsider the place of religion and spirituality in psychiatry. This paper was written with the aim of encouraging dialogue between the often antithetical realms of religion and science. Method: Material from psychiatric, sociological and religious studies literature was reviewed, with particular emphasis on New Zealand sources. Results: Despite the secularising effects of science, the presence and influence of ‘religiosity’ remains substantial in Western culture. The literature emphasises the central importance of religion and spirituality for mental health, and the difficulty of integrating these concepts with scientific medicine. Psychiatric tradition and training may exaggerate the ‘religiosity gap’ between doctors and patients. In New Zealand, the politically mandated bicultural approach to mental health demands an understanding of Maori spirituality. Conclusions: Intellectual, moral and pragmatic arguments all suggest that psychiatry should reconsider its attitude to religion and spirituality. There are many opportunities for research in the field. Psychiatry would benefit if the vocabulary and concepts of religion and spirituality were more familiar to trainees and practitioners. Patients would find better understanding from psychiatrists, and fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue about mutual issues of ‘ultimate concern’ might ensue.”

Morowitz Harold, 2005. “The Debate between Science and Religion: Exploring Roads Less Traveled.” Zygon. 40:1:51-56(6). Blackwell Publishing.
Abstract: “The confrontation between Hellenism and Judaism goes back to the invasion of the Middle East by the armies of Alexander the Great. The differing ideologies, first rationalized by Philo of Alexandria, have emerged repeatedly for the past 2,000 years. The inability to resolve the differences can be traced to the differing epistemologies of religious fundamentalists and scientists with views that can be traced to Karl Popper, Immanuel Kant, and, ultimately, Aristotle.”

Keywords: Alexander; constructs; ding an sich (thing in itself); epistemology; evolution; Immanuel Kant; Philo; transcendence

Document Type: Research article


Affiliations: 1: Harold Morowitz is professor and former director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, MS 2A1, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, and co-chairman of the Science Advisory Board at the Santa Fe Institute.

Links for this article

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/bpl/zygo/2005/00000040/00000001/art00006
http://openurl.ingenta.com/content?genre=article&issn=0591-2385&volume=40&issue=1&spage=51&epage=56
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00642.x

Fernando, Suman. 2003. Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle Against Racism. Psychology Press.


Speechless is now on WordPress’ list of Growing Blogs with 22,854 viewers. My first entry was entitled “Navigation Tools for the Blogosphere” and as I approach Speechless’ first anniversary I’ve just begun to use two new Open Source applications, CiteULike and Flexlists. I had attempted Zotero as a replacement for my huge EndNote library but I somehow lost the new library when I switched computers. CiteULike is all on-line and annotates references for me in formats used by academics. It also allows me to enter my CiteULike entries into my EndNote database. So far I’ve just been experimenting with compiling references on the concept of “memory work” in My Webliography and Bibliography. I have been contributing to building on-line resources of the concept “memory work” on wikipedia, deli.cio.us, WordPress, Googles Customized Search and Swicki.

I’ve also begun a list of key concepts on Flexlists which I prefer to call My Organic Glossary since it will mutate as my understanding of terms matures, deepens and develops through further teaching, learning and research.

I had attempted to use Babylon as an Open Source on-line build-your-own-glossary but realized that it is not actually free. It offers a limited introductory period followed by a pay-to-use plan. It would have been frustrating to invest time in building a glossary only to lose access to it!

I’ve started investing more time into my Google Customized Search on “Memory Work” and added Adsense. I have added refinements to it through labels: health, academic, article, museology, Inuit,


Michel Foucault (1926-1984) spent most of his life examining the archaeological dimensions of his philosophy of freedom, but at the end of his life as he was dying of HIV related illness he re-examined his concept of freedom with an ethical dimension.

In 1984

“. . . Foucault sought a heightened consciousness of how individuals are embedded in cultural practices, especially in various sorts of power relationships, to enhance individual freedom. In his final interview, he said that he had tried to distinguish “three types of problems of truth, that of power, and that of individual conduct,” but that he had hampered himself by overemphasizing truth and power at the expense of individual conduct (Lotringer RM: 466:1989). Now, he continued, he hoped to break free of mere subjectivity by reappropriating the ancient practices of care of self. These, he said, so not include finding a deep inner truth but rather governing “one’s life in order to give it the most beautiful form possible (Lotringer CT 1989:458 cited in Martin and Barresi 2006:261).”

“[...] In the end, Foucault advocated a return to the project of care for the self and to the constructing of an ethical self. (Martin and Barresi 2006:262).”

Bibliography

Foucault, Michel. 1984. Vol III: Le Souci de soi. Paris: Gallimard.

Foucault, Michel. 1988. ‘The Return of Morality’, in Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984, ed. Lawrence Kritzman, trans. Alan Sheridan and others. New York: Routledge, 1988, 242–54.

Foucault, Michel. 1986. ‘Postscript, An Interview with Michel Foucault by Charles Ruas’, in Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel, trans. Charles Ruas. New York: Doubleday, 1986, 169–86.

Foucault, Michel. 1984. Vol III: The Care of the Self. Paris: Gallimard.
‘The Ethic of Care for the Self as a Practise of Freedom’, in The Final Foucault, ed. James Bernauer and David Rasmussen. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988, 1–20.
‘On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress’, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. J. Harari. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984, 340–72.

Lotringer, S. 1989. Foucault Live: Interviews, 1966-84. Semiotext(e).

Martin, Raymond, Barresi, John. 2006. The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self. New York: Columbia University.


French philospher and superstar of atheism Michel Onfray’s (Onfray 2007) movement of evangelical secularism depends on a moral mathematics of risk society. At its most extreme it advocates a form of instrumentalist social atomism and radical anthropocentrism.

Onfray refers to the influential writings of Nietzsche, who combines philosophy with a searing aesthetic to unsettle 19th century ethics, ethos and morals. Nietzsche work is permeated with a heightened moral relativism where individuals are free to choose their own virtues and vices subjectively and interchangeably. But Nietzsche’s avatar Zarathustra is not advocating a new religion. He is following in the Enlightenment tradition wherein the modern individual perceives religion to be pitiably self-delusional and comfortable. And I never forget that Nietzsche wrote against a late 19th century backdrop of a distorted form of Christian/utilitarianism driving unfettered destructive colonial expansion.

These masters of today- surpass them, O my brethren- these petty
people: they are the Superman’s greatest danger!
Surpass, ye higher men, the petty virtues, the petty policy, the
sand-grain considerateness, the ant-hill trumpery, the pitiable
comfortableness, the “happiness of the greatest number”-!
And rather despair than submit yourselves. And verily, I love you,
because ye know not today how to live, ye higher men! For thus do ye
live- best! (Nietzsche 1892)

The brilliance of the canonical writing of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, Deleuze and even Derrida, is not enough to provide incentive to transform inner ethical orientations or to change outward moral behaviour. Marx was not a Marxist. Derrida himself deconstructed the Author. These leaders of thought provide useful concepts and robust arguments but not comprehensive systems intended for universal adoption. Their space-time dependent oeuvre never claimed to provide comprehensive manifestos with an ethos, code of ethics and a will for social change under accidental temporal and spatial conditions.

Moral orientation imposed through legislation and education aims at protecting current and dominant (not necessarily democratic) concerns of society. Such ordinances and curriculum are necessary in a civil society but they provide at most a minimalist state protection for those at-risk of social exclusion. At their worst the algorithms of moral mathematics ensure a legal and civil method to heighten the vulnerability of the most vulnerable. See Foucault on crime, punishment and discipline.

Nietzsche’s concept of authenticity which is a form of self-making in the register of the aesthetic is incompatible with that form of imposed morality, the Christian-inspired ethic of charity for the Other crushes an individual’s elemental, instinctive and powerful desires (Taylor 1991:65).

In contrast the inner ethical orientations ( BIC 2006 ) of moderate civil religion relevant to social, historical, economic and political context are constituted by a concept of faith as conscious knowledge expressed in action (‘Abdu’l-Baha 1915:549) combined with an an ethos of caring and mutual trust. This concept of faith is held in tension by the use of the faculty of reason to prevent fanaticism and superstition. First it is to know and then to do (‘Abdu’l-Baha 1915:549).

Taylor (1991:10) describes the fading of moral horizons, the loss of meaning, the eclipse of ends, rampant instrumental reason and the loss of freedoms as all part of the malaise of modernity. He cautions that atomist and instrumentalist approaches promote a debased and shallow form of authenticity (1991:120).

keywords: moral mathematics, consequentialism vs deontology, 

Webliography and Bibliography

‘Abdu’l-Baha. 1915. Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

Bahá’í International Community (BIC). 2006. “A New Vision for Humanity’s Future.

Colbert, Stephen. 2007. Unquisition. May 3.

Derrida (1990) in Le droit à la philosophie du point de vue cosmopolitique.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007a.”The West Needs a Spiritual Surge” >> Amitai Etzioni Notes. March 6, 2007.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007b. L’Occident aussi a besoin d’un renouveau spirituel.” Le Monde. 7 avril.

Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Warner Books.

Higgins, Andrew. 2007. As religious strife grows, atheists seize pulpit.” Northwest Herald. >> nwherald.com. April 13.

Kinsley, Michael. 2007. “In God, Distrust.” Sunday Book Review. New York Times. May 13.

Lacroix, Alexandre, Truong, Nicolas. 2007. “Nicolas Sarkozy et Michel Onfray: Confidences entre Ennemis.” Philosophie Mag. No. 8. >> Philomag.com

Onfray, Michel. 2007. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1892. Thus Spake Zarathustra. Trans. Common, Thomas.Taylor, Charles. The Malaise of Modernity. Concord, Ontario: House of Anansi Press.


Ontological certitude has been embedded in influential pockets of academic disciplines that operate within a persistent and pervasive assumption of realism (Beck, 1992: 4). See Bauman (1994). There is a marked impatient, dismissal and neglect of highly relevant and useful contemporary theory which unsettles the notion that we can access raw chunks of reality as facts. But this is crucial in order to open up forums for debate between differing view points in a highly pluralistic society.

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who became increasingly influential in the late 1980s (1973) argued that sociology needed to questions its own troubled self-annihilating historiography and recognise that cultural praxis is the unique domain of humans. Rather than focus on on the production of professional technocrats, sociologists need to come into direct contact with the human praxis. While Bauman (1993) claims that the human subject produced by modern management is stripped of moral purpose, he also argues that humans are uniquely situated and capable of challenging our own reality individually and collectively in order to investigate deeper meanings of justice, ethics, freedom (1973?).

In the period post-1989 has witnessed an ethical turn in the social sciences informed in part by philosophy (Mikhael Bakhtin) and political philosophy as found in the work of Paul Ricoeur, Charles Taylor, Emmanuel Levinas and the more recent works of Jacques Derrida.

Bauman (2001) discusses the complex dilemma of the stranger, the unfamiliar other in the social landscape as the European Union materialized.

He described political classes diverted the public’s “deepest cause of anxiety, that is the experience of individual insecurity, to the popular concern with (already misplaced) threats to collective identity. ” This resulted in a heightened coldness and even aggression towards the stranger next door. He compared two scenarios: Girard’s scenario for dealing with difference was to join together to create common enemies which Bauman considers to be “not just cruel and inhuman it is also ineffective.” John Rex (1995) presents one of the “public political culture and a political society ased upon the idea of equality of opportunity, but often also on a conception of at least a minimum of social rights for all, i.e. equality of outcome”.

If this is the case, then the choice between Girard’s and Rex’s scenarios is far from being just a matter of an academic interest. It involves the value which our civilisation rightly considered to be the main, perhaps even the only, title to its glory. Its past readiness to recognise sense and dignity in alternative ways of life, to seek and to find grounds for peaceful and solidary coexistence which are not dependent on compliance with one, homogenous and uncontested pattern of life. The choice between scenarios is also a deeply ethical choice; what depends on that choice, is whether the form of life the chosen strategy is meant to preserve is worth defending in the first place. The future of Europe and every part of it depends on our ability and willingness to learn to live with cultural diversity (Bauman 2001).

Slow world interrupted . . . to be continued [. . .]

Edgoose (1997) responded to Derrida in terms of ethical and legal judgment in the care/justice debate:

Derrida (1990) distinguishes between two types of justice: in French, droit and juste. Droit – “right,” “law” – resembles “justice” in the care/justice debate. It is universal and intelligible and can be written down and used to guide future judgment. But droit is not an idealization of the mechanism of law. It is not the case that droit represents the way in which unbiased and universal legal judgments are made – by the application of universal law and rights. Droit is, rather, the self-understanding that accompanies our sense of the law, but it is only a partial understanding.

Juste, on the other hand, has little to do with “justice” in the care/justice debate. But it has everything to do with the empirical openness to the Other which I have identified with Levinas and as the inspiration for the ethics of care. Yet for Derrida, as we shall see, the openness to the Other of care is involved in the process of ethical and legal judgment, and so the connotation of justice is still needed.

Like Levinas, Derrida believes that caring justice juste is born out of attention to many particular Others. It is defined by its very plurality. Derrida writes, for example, that “the condition of all possible caring justice juste” would be, “to address oneself to the Other in the language of the Other” (1990:949). But Derrida declares that in the language of the law, this is impossible, since in the law assumes a universality by which it can be applied to everyone.

Notes

Zygmunt Bauman is known throughout the world for works such as Legislators and Interpreters (1987), Modernity and the Holocaust (1989), Modernity and Ambivalence (1991) and Postmodern Ethics (1993), Liquid Modernity (2000), The Individualized Society (2001), Conversations with Zygmunt Bauman, with Keith Tester (2001), Society Under Siege (2002), and Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds (2003). See a brief biography.

In Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argued that genocide was the logical conclusion of a misguided, strong version of the Enlightenment project ‘Every ingredient of the Holocaust… was normal… in the sense of being fully in keeping with everything we know about our civilisation, its guiding spirits, its priorities, its immanent vision of the world – and of the proper ways to pursue human happiness together with a perfect society (Bauman 1989:8).'”

Bibliography

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1973. Culture as Praxis, London and Boston, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1993. Postmodern Ethics.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1994. Alone Again – ethics after certainty. London, Demos.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1998. Globalization the Human Consequences. Cambridge: Polity Press. See review.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2001. “Europe of Strangers.” Transnational Communities Programme. October.

Beck, Ulrich. 1992.

Critchley, Simon. 1992. The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas . Oxford: Blackwell.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “Violence and Metaphysics.” Trans. Alan Bass, in Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago:79-153.

Derrida, Jacques. 1981. Positions. trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1990. “Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority.” Trans. Mary Quaintance, Cardozo Law Review. 11:919-1070.

Edgoose, Julian. “An Ethics of Hesitant Learning: The Caring Justice of Levinas and Derrida“. Philosophy of Education Society.

Honneth, Alex. 1995. “The Other of Justice: Habermas and the Ethical Challenge of Postmodernism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Habermas. Ed. Stephen K. White: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Luce Irigaray, Luce. 1993. An Ethics of Sexual Difference, trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Levinas, Emmanuel. 1969. Totality and Infinity. Trans. Alphonso Lingis: Pittsburgh: Duquesne.

Levinas, Emmanuel . 1991. Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Noddings, Nel. 1984. Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Morality. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rex, John. 1995. “Ethnic Identity and the Nation State.” Social Identities. 1.


Charles Taylor distinguishes between ethics and morality by describing the latter as “that part of ethics which is concerned with our obligations to others, in justice and benevolence.” In the course that he is currently teaching (2007) Taylor examines how,

For some thinkers, this is the really important department of ethics, far more significant than questions about what constitutes a good or worth-while life. For others, this primacy is quite mistaken and unacceptable. This issue is often fought out under the description “the primacy of the right over the good”. If one accepts the primacy, certain questions open up: viz, utilitarianism versus a Kantian approach. If one refuses this primacy, then another set of questions become important, because there are a host of different ways of defining the good life (Taylor 2007).


Nussbaum (1994) rejected pro-patriotism arguments in favour of a more cosmopolitan identity which prioritizes human rights above a sense of national belonging. She began her essay with a quote from 4th century BC Cynic Diogenes who, “Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.”4

The Stoics stress that to be a citizen of the world one does not need to give up local identifications, which can frequently be a source of great richness in life. They suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The first one is drawn around the self; the next takes in one’s immediate family; then follows the extended family; then, in order, one’s neighbors or local group, one’s fellow city-dwellers, one’s fellow countrymen — and we can easily add to this list groupings based on ethnic, linguistic, historical, professional, gender and sexual identities. Outside all these circles is the largest one, that of humanity as a whole. Our task as citizens of the world will be to “draw the circles somehow toward the center” (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)1, making all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so on. In other words, we need not give up our special affections and identifications, whether ethnic or gender-based or religious. We need not think of them as superficial, and we may think of our identity as in part constituted by them. We may and should devote special attention to them in education. But we should work to make all human beings part of our community of dialogue and concern, base our political deliberations on that interlocking commonality, and give the circle that defines our humanity a special attention and respect.

The Stoic model is of course imperfect since Stoic process of drawing the circle toward the centre was based on assimilation. There was no concept of a sophisticated Derridian “philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view” or a “politics of friendship” which unsettles relationships to the stranger, the unfamiliar, the unheimlich.

Taylor has deplored the fact that most of us are content to not question what we value. What are the ethics and morals that are most important to us? Where and when did we adopt them? Was it conscious choice or osmosis? Pondering these questions in moral philosophy is not part of our everyday lives. As we slide towards a form of world citizenship, we will need to know ourselves so the values that are important to us are the ones we end of defending.

While Charles Taylor2 (1994) admired Martha Nussbaum’s (1994 ) with one caveat, he disagreed with her proposal that cosmopolitan identity replace patriotism. And of course they are both correct. Nussbaum’s call for a more inclusive global citizenship based on responsibility and caring is essential to the sustainable futures. But for all appearances we are still national citizens (Rorty 1994). However, the concept of the Westphalian nation-state has a historical beginning and its future form may be quite different from what we now experience. National sense of belonging will be quite different a decade from now just as it was prior to 911 when these articles were written. As we move into the unknown area of morality in a post-national world, will the secular humanist discourse be enlightened enough to stretch our sociological imaginations and allow us to negotiate solutions to seemingly irreconcilable differences.
Writing in Palestine3 in 1917 Abdu’l-Baha, a Persian spiritual leader called for a unity of the Orient and Occident, the North and the South. He called these concentric circles, ‘collective centres of human association and unity’ which were necessary for the prosperity of the world of humanity. However, he reminded his audience that these centres are accidental and temporary, composed of matter not substance, and therefore vulnerable over time to being swept away by revolutions and upheavals. He compared the transitory nature of these concentric circles of belonging and responsibility to the eternal and everlasting spiritual collective centre which is capable of embracing all races of men.

In the contingent world there are many collective centers which are conducive to association and unity between the children of men. For example, patriotism is a collective center; nationalism is a collective center; identity of interests is a collective center; political alliance is a collective center; the union of ideals is a collective center, and the prosperity of the world of humanity is dependent upon the organization and promotion of the collective centers. Nevertheless, all the above institutions are in reality, the matter and not the substance, accidental and not eternal — temporary and not everlasting. With the appearance of great revolutions and upheavals, all these collective centers are swept away. But the Collective Center of the Kingdom, embodying the Institutes and Divine Teachings, is the eternal Collective Center. It establishes relationship between the East and the West, organizes the oneness of the world of humanity, and destroys the foundation of differences. It overcomes and includes all the other collective centers. Like unto the ray of the sun, it dispels entirely the darkness, encompassing all the regions, bestows ideal life, and causes the effulgence of divine illumination. Through the breaths of the Holy Spirit it performs miracles; the Orient and the Occident embrace each other, the North and South become intimates and associates; conflicting and contending opinions disappear; antagonistic aims are brushed aside, the law of the struggle for existence is abrogated, and the canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity is raised on the apex of the globe, casting its shade over all the races of men. Consequently, the real Collective Center is the body of the divine teachings, which include all the degrees and embrace all the universal relations and necessary laws of humanity. (Abdu’l-Baha 1917)

Footnotes

1 Each of us is, indeed, as it were circumscribed by many circles, larger and smaller, comprehending and comprehended, according to various mutual circumstances (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)


2
This essay is hosted on a Charles Taylor resource site by Professor who describes it as “a response to Martha Nussbaum’s “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” which appeared in the Boston Review (Vol. 19, No. 5). Taylor’s response is part of an excellent discussion which includes Hilary Putnam, Benjamin Barber, Judith Butler, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William E. Connolly, Sissela Bok, and several other excellent thinkers. For Nussbaum’s reply to her critics, see “Asking the Right Questions,” from the same issue of the Boston Review.”

3. Delivered on March 8, 1917, in the summerhouse (Isma’il Aqá’s room) at `Abdu’l-Bahá’s house in Haifa, Palestine and addressed to the small, emerging community of Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada. Throughout his writings there is an insistence on the unicity of God and inclusivity though union and diversity, so that ‘divine teachings’, Holy Spirit, the Cause refers to a progressive religion which is constituted by all world religions.

4. The irascible Cynic Diogenes is perhaps not the most noble example of a world citizen since he lived by the precept that one’s personal happiness was “satisfied by meeting one’s natural needs and that what is natural cannot be shameful or indecent. His life, therefore, was lived with extreme simplicity, inured to want, and without shame.” Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.” (Diogenes. vi.). His world citizenship was not based on the responsibility or caring of a world citizen rather on his insistence on dismissing societal norms for his own sense of happiness. See Grout (1997-2007). Diogenes is perhaps a citizen of the world in the same sense as Humphey Bogart as Rick in the 1942 film Casablanca who declared his nationality was “drunkard” when interrogated by German officers. His companion joked that “That makes Rick a Citizen of the World.”


Bibliography

Abdu’l-Baha. 1917. “Tablet to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada.” Tablets of the Divine Plan. Haifa, Palestine.

Abdu’l-Baha. “The Divine Plan: The Cause of Baháu’lláh.” Baha’i World Faith.

Diogenes Laertius. 4th BC. “Diogenes the Cynic.” >> Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Essays on Greek history and culture and the later Byzantine empire. Encyclopaedia Romana and Greece. University of Chicago.


Grout, James. 1997-2007. Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Essays on Greek history and culture and the later Byzantine empire. Encyclopaedia Romana and Greece. University of Chicago.

Hierocles.
1st 2nd CE.Conduct towards Relatives.” >> completepythagoras.net

Nussbaum, Martha. 1994. Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” Boston Review. 19:5.

 

Rorty, Richard. 1994. The New York Times. 13 February. The New York Times (13 February 1994), philosopher Richard Rorty urges Americans, especially the American left, not to disdain patriotism as

 

Taylor, Charles. 1994. “Why Democracy Needs Patriotism.” Boston Review.

Taylor, Charles. 2007. Theories of Ethics: Course Abstract. School of Law, Northwestern University

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Ethics and Morality at the Interstice between Patriotism and the Cosmopolitical Point of View.” >> Speechless

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Ethics and Morality at the Interstice between Patriotism and the Cosmopolitical Point of View.” >> Google docs

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_229c7dfpj

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