Overwhelmed that a photo of the Iqaluit cemetery taken from Happy Valley looking out over Koosejee Inlet in October 2002, can travel so far because of the initiative of Sep and Jonathan, two cyber citizens who have created Art 2.0: a collaborative art form linking (and hyperlinking) art, technology, consciousness . . .

Their methodology was impeccable, including dozens of collaborators through a series of courteous and informative emails that described the step-by-step process.

The final result is mind-boggling.

They provided the customized url for the image of pages on which the work of each contributor is shown:

They also provided a link to the Amazon site where the book itself is on sale at a very low price considering the high quality of the book design and its unique format which is a harbinger of a Art 2.0.

I am grateful they trawled Flickr and found a fragment of my own narrative . . .

Hi Maureen!

After nearly 3 years of hard work we are so very happy to announce that We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion is in stores starting today. You should all be receiving your books within the next few weeks, but we hope that you will take a sneak peek next time you’re at your local bookstore. Copies should be on the shelves of bookstores nationwide in the United States.
If you live within the Unites States, your complimentary copy of the book will be shipped out today or tomorrow. If you live outside of the US we will be shipping your book next week and it may take some extra time to get to you. Thank you all for being so patient and it shouldn’t be too much longer until you have it in your hands.

We also hope that you will spread the word and perhaps include the exciting news in your facebook status or on your blog. We will be posting the simple: “We Feel Fine book in stores today! http://bit.ly/wffbook)” in our facebook/twitter as well.

As we have said before we honestly couldn’t have done this without all of you and so on today of all days would like to send you all our sincerest gratitude. For me, personally, I have had an incredible time working on this book and a huge part of that has been reading your blogs. Thanks for everything. Best, Sep


Haraway’s work examines how ideology informs science both through legitimization of claims and the intrusion of values into ‘scientific’ facts. In her introduction Haraway describes how the concepts of love, power and science are intricately intertwined in the constructions of nature in the late twentieth century. In the eighteenth century Linneaus named the order of Primates. Since then in western life sciences, ‘nature’ has encompassed themes of race, sexuality, gender, nation, family and class. Projects of colonialism developed ideologies of the control of nature and the civilization of native cultures (Haraway 1989:1).

The concept of ‘civilization’ as a benchmark for evaluating the evolution of culture had been an accepted and integral part of colonialism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the control of nature by technology, the machine, had become ambiguous. Nature, a potent symbol of innocence, was female and she needed protection from technology.

The American Museum of Natural History near Central Park, New York, was opened after the Civil War. In 1936 the African Hall was unveiled, a vision of the communion between nature and man, made possible through the craft of taxidermy. Carl Akeley’s, the chief taxidermist, greatest success was his display of a giant silverback gorilla from Congo-Zaire. This silverback is exhibited in a specially created diorama against a backdrop of Akeley’s own burial site in Congo-Zaire where he died in 1921. Haraway notes that in the same year, the Museum of Natural Science hosted a meeting of the International Congress of Eugenics. (Haraway 1989:26 -27).

Haraway reveals how the funding of the Museum of Natural History and related projects, such as public education, scientific collection and eugenics was provided by wealthy philanthropists. These men were often sports hunters who hunted in the African jungle and were enamoured with nature (Haraway 1989:54). They created a Hall of the Age of Man which museum trustee H. F. Osborn hoped would provide children with “…the book of nature written in facts” in order to prepare them to be “…better citizens of the future.” These early trustees and scientists believed that the nature they knew and were showing was not an interpretation. Nature was real. This realism also informed aesthetic choices in exhibitions.

Haraway reveals how it was also designed to “…make the moral lessons of racial hierarchy and progress explicit.” Osborn was an ardent eugenicist. Another Museum trustee was a white-supremacist author, Madison Grant, who was deeply concerned by the increase of immigration of non-white working classes whom he feared would outnumber the “old American stock”. Non-white included the Jewish and Eastern European cultures (Haraway 1989:57).

Haraway traces the way in which primates: monkeys, apes and chimpanzees, represent a privileged relation to nature and culture. In the chapter on the work of Robert Yerkes (Yale) on Human Engineering and the Laboratories of Primate Biology (1924-1942) she examines his research in comparative primate psychobiology. Human engineering was a term and tool developed c. 1910 to establish and maintain a stable, productive, non-conflictual workplace to prevent lost time and resources. Workers who were properly managed, or ‘engineered’, would ensure industry’s profits. The engineering included concern for stable family situations to encourage the maintenance of a constructive force. In Yerkes research chimpanzees became physiological models of humans. Through them Yerkes investigated instinct, personality, culture and human engineering. In the process he was reformulating the relationship between nature and culture (Haraway 1989:66).

In her final chapter Haraway narrates a link between primatology and science fiction. She tells the story of Lilith, an Octavia Butler character in the science-fiction Dawn. Lilith, a woman of colour, out of Africa, becomes the primal mother, the Eve to a polymorphous species. The story unfolds in a post-nuclear, post-slavery world overtaken by an alien species. It is a survival fiction about the “… resistance to the imperative to recreate the sacred image of the same (Haraway 1989:378).” Haraway refers to a part in Dawn when Lilith talks about her feelings of being impregnated with something that is not human, a metamorphose. “I had gone back to school.” [Lilith] said. “I was majoring in anthropology.” She laughed out bitterly. “I suppose I could think of this as fieldwork – but how the hell can I get out of the field?” (Butler 1987: 262-3)

In this monumental, thorough work Haraway examined the various ‘border disputes” about primates including those between biology and psychiatry, scientists and administrators, specialists and lay people and historians of science and real scientists. “The primate field, naturalistic and textual, has been a site for elaborating and contesting the bio-politics of difference and identity for members of industrial and post-industrial cultures (Haraway 1989:368).” She traced the history of the science of primatology down an exciting path through Central Park, into the dark jungles of Africa, to taxidermy laboratories, to museum dioramas, to Disney homes for chimps and women scientists who serve as a kind of missing link in a long evolutionary chain. She concludes with a fiction, the beginning of a myth of Eve without Adam. She ends her narrative with that of a female scientist who becomes part of the experiment, part of the field study unable to escape (Haraway 1989:14).

Her work is so deeply intertextual and detailed that it confounds but does not prevent criticism. Haraway looked at the way frameworks become acceptable on the basis of value systems or world views held by particular interest groups or power groups which in turn provide the criteria for the legitimization of truth claims. She describes how ideology informs science.

Debates in sociology revolve around sociology’s function as a discipline within academia. Conflicting oppositional viewpoints are often defined as extreme and exclusive dichotomies: nomologism vs. historicism, generalizing vs particularizing, positivism vs relativism, scientific facts vs discourse, Science vs journalism, uncritical vs self-reflexive, occupation vs profession, value-free vs. social, hard science vs soft science, centre vs periphery, intra disciplinary vs interdisciplinary, optimistic vs sceptical; scientific elite vs the public; liberal vs illiberal; objective vs engaged political thinker.

These debates are somewhat like a conversation that takes place over centuries. The character of the debates often takes on the form of rhetorical assertions coupled with evidence. However, the evidence is often grounded in oppositional stances. The most diametrically opposed players then face an impasse which Joan Huber’s and Goldthorpe describe as an unbridgeable chasm. Empirical positivists “know” Science deals in Scientific facts which are predictable, replicable and guaranteed results of pure scientific methodologies. There is no need to theorize because they already know this to be true. SSK, relativists and postmodernists assert that the tools with which scientists work, their methodologies and the very environments in which they work, have to be constantly revisited and theorized. This they know is true. Those who attempt to enter into the conversation, need to first gauge the level of credibility of the discourse on either side. A legalistic strategy of the weighing of evidence might be useful. However, the weight of evidence can be valid only if all the major arguments on both sides are reviewed, a monumental task.

Webliography and Bibliography

Haraway, Donna. 1989. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science.

My Summary: Haraway looked at the way frameworks become acceptable on the basis of value systems or world views held by particular interest groups or power groups which in turn provide the criteria for the legitimization of truth claims. She describes how ideology informs science. In Primate Visions (1989) Haraway reveals how Yerkes’ Human Engineering projects (1924-1942) used chimpanzees as physiological models of humans. Through them Yerkes investigated instinct, personality, culture and human engineering. In the process he was reformulating the relationship between nature and culture (Haraway 1989:66).

Like many viewers initially watching the television seriesLost, I remained lost throughout its entire unfolding. At times we joked that is must be written from episode to episode with about the same level of thought given to fictional productions in the cynical sit-com Made in Canada on what really happens in the name of television productions. But according to US Today journalist, Keveney (2007) the ABC televised drama apparently paid homage to western philosophers who focused on a study of man, nature and society as namesakes for Lost fictional characters: John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher of the Enlightenment Era, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), French philosopher, born in Switzerland, Stephen Hawking (1942-), Anthony Cooper (1671-1713), English philosopher and Third Earl of Shaftesbury, English theoretical physicist, Edmund Burke (1730-97), Irish political writer whose work delved into philosophy).

We met Danielle Rousseau, the intensely suspicious survivor of an earlier ill-fated expedition, who survived but was unhinged due to extreme isolation in the wild, was driven by her desire to find her daughter. Her fictional character is meant to refer to Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), the French philosopher, born in Switzerland who also grew paranoid later in life and had a famed falling-out with philosopher colleague David Hume. In his writings, Rousseau adopted a more positive attitude towards civil society since it enabled people to work together and to provide each other with some form of security. David Thomer, who teaches philosophy at La Salle University, argued that Rousseau’s relationship to the natural world became self-destructive and is therefore a warning about the potential for destruction in “the state of nature.”

John Locke, the frustrated wheelchair-bound office worker who was miraculously transformed to a vital, ambulatory explorer on the island is loosely based on John Locke (1632-1704), the English philosopher of the Enlightenment Era. Unlike his namesake, the island version of Locke represents faith over reason and science. The island healed him so he feels a spiritual bond with its mystery. Like the Enlightenment philosopher, the island boy scout also believes in the tabula rasa, or blank slate, and learns through experience. Thomer, argued that just as John Locke, the philosopher saw humans starting in a state of nature, Lost survivors, also moved toward a form of social contract. His belief that action is based on experiences fits in with Lost‘s ample use of flashbacks in which we see how particular life experiences motivates certain characters to behave the way they do.

“The first person who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society (Rousseau 1753).”

“the State of Nature has a Law of Nature to Govern it, which
obliges everyone: And Reason … is that Law” (Locke 1690).

God “has given the earth to the Children of Men, given it to mankind in common” (Psalms 115:16 cited in Locke 1690).

In his germinal essay (1753) entitled “Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inegalite”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau addressed humanity as a whole. He focused on the situation of the individual in society and the distinction and relationship between Self and the Other. He praised Geneva’s republican form of government which to him represented the principles of freedom. He this descriptive text he attempted to reconstruct the history of mankind, a hypothetical evolution of society. Rousseau compared himself to ancient philosophers and metaphorically placed himself in the Greek Lyceum.

In his essay on political philosophy entitled “Two Treatises of Government” (1690) John Locke argued that a government’s assurance of the individual right to private property [1] was a positive result of the alignment of natural and civil law whereas Jean-Jacques Rousseau viewed civil society as a regrettable end to a superior mode of living. Hayllor following Miller (1992 ix) points out that Rousseau’s hypotheses regarding the state of nature were largely drawn from the Comte de Buffon’s seminal text Natural History.


1. In these essays (1690) Locke distinguishes between political power and other distinct power that the same individual man might have over others. Political power refers to the power of a magistrate over a subject in a commonwealth. The same individual may also have power as a father over his children, a master over his servant, a husband over his wife, a captain of a galley over his seamen and a lord over his slave. Locke’s concept of political power is that power that gives one the “right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good” (Locke 1690). It is crucial to read both Locke and Rousseau in context. Locke’s essay is considered to be a strong rebuttal of monarchist ideas and critique of forms of governance in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. It is interesting to note that in 2008 the wikipedia article on Rousseau’s “Two Treatises of Government” (1690) continues to provoke controversy and remains on the list of articles requiring editing to ensure it remains free of bias. His treatises have been used by anti-capitalists as the beginning of capitalist arguments for private property.

[2] Rousseau’s essay was written in response to a call for papers by Dijon academy. Rousseau wrote the response to the question, “What is the Origin of the Inequality among Mankind; and whether such Inequality is authorized by the Law of Nature?” He also refers frequently to Hobbes and refutes Hobbes’ arguments but to different ends. Rousseau wrote elegantly without formal education.

Webliography and Bibliography

Hayllar, Andrew. “Virtue or Vice? Exploring the Role of Property in the Works of Locke and Rousseau.

Mercken-Spaas, Godelieve. 1978. “Some aspects of Self and the Other in Rousseau and Sade.” SubStance. 6: 20:71-77. Autumn. University of Wisconsin Press.

Keveney, Bill. 2007-03-28. “‘Lost’ philosophy: Something to think about.” USA Today.

Locke, John. 1690. “Two Treatises of Government.”

Locke, John, Two treatises of government, Student Edition, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought series, ed. P Laslett, Cambridge University Press,

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1964. The first and second discourses, trans. R & J Masters, ed. R Masters, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1973. Social contract and discourses, Everyman’s Library no. 660, trans. GDH Cole, ed. & rev. J. H Brumfitt and JC Hall, JM Dent & Sons Ltd., London.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1992. Discourse on the origin of inequality, trans. DA Cress, Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, 1992. Introduction by J Miller.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1753. “Discourse on the origin of inequality.” Second discourse.

Ryan, A. 1984. Property and political theory, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford.

Wokler, R. 2001. Rousseau: A very short introduction, Oxford University Press.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1753. “Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inegalite.”

de Sade, Marquis. 1795. La Philosophie dans la boudoir.”

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).”

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.


April 8, 2008

Friedrich's Antithesis

In 2004 just before I became totally lost in my cybernarcosis, cyberdeliria, enraptured by the deep internet I played with the digital image of the foremost German Romantic landscape painter David Casper Friedrich’s (1774-1840) Wanderer Overlooking the Sea of Fog (1818 ) His anti-classical work was part of a new synthesis of art, philosophy, and science focusing on the natural world which seemed somehow embued with the spiritual experiences of life. Friedrich’s timeless depiction of a wanderer looking out over a sea of fog evokes the journey of life towards higher more difficult summits. I enjoy the irony that the man depicted in his original image was a mere warden, not a world traveller. David Casper Friedrich gained the admiration of the poet Goethe, “the initiator of the tradition of the Bildungsroman, the novel of formation” (more). “In Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship the protagonist undergoes a journey of Bildung, or self-realization” (more).

    “With interventions into man’s genetic inheritance, the domination over nature reverts into an act of taking-control-over-oneself, which changes our generic-ethical self-understanding and can disturb the necessary conditions for an autonomous way of life and universalistic understanding of morals (Jantschek 2001 cited by Habermas cited in Žižek 125).”
      Bildung is the painful struggle to form/educate one’s natural dispositions through which an individual develops his/her moral identity.
      Žižek summarized Habermas’ concern with biogenetics argued that biogenetics threaten a vital concept of moral identity formation based on the painful lifelong struggle (Bildung) to realize one’s innate potential while educating one’s natural dispositions. Direct biogenetic interventions render the notion of such an education meaningless. Also, at an intersubjective level

      tag cloud: biogenetics,

      Webliography and Bibliography

      Habermas, Jurgens. Lecture. Marburg.
      Jantschek, Thorsten. 2001. “Ein ausgezehrter Hase.” Die Zeit. July 5.
      Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.

      I came to know about George Smiley’s dilemma over breakfast as I read through novel after novel by John Le Carré. Smiley’s brilliance in his tradecraft was not enough to equip him for the ethically ambiguous role in which Le Carré placed him. Through the anti-Bond, middle-aged, mild-mannered, master of bureaucratic manoeuvring (wiki), George Smiley, Le Carré seemed to work through his own questions, “What are the real costs of national security policies such as espionage?” Aronoff (1998) examined Le Carré’s spy novels in terms of ethical dilemmas that confront citizens, particularly of democracies, when their nations engage in diplomacy, covert action and espionage with other nations.

      Shulsky1 and Schmitt, two intelligence analysts juxtaposed political philosophy with spy novels by comparing their mentor, realist political philosopher Leo Strauss to the gentle, wise, world-weary and disillusioned George Smiley. Both Strauss and Smiley had the “ability to concentrate on detail, [with] consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines” and both believed that we live in a very cruel world of dangerous adversaries who aim to deceive by providing misleading clues and evidence (Shulsky and Schmitt 1999).

      Strauss claimed that since your enemy aims to deceive you, you are also allowed to deceive. He interprets Plato to argue that “philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians” (Holmes cited by Hersh 2003). “Echoing one of Strauss’s major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment” See (Shulsky and Schmitt 1999 Hersh 2003).

      The ideology of Leo Strauss has been described as “elitist, amoral and hostile to democratic government (Lobe 2003)” yet according to University of Calgary’s Shadia B. Drury he had a cult following of key US neo-conservative strategists (Drury 1988, 1999) including Paul Wolfowitz2, William Kristol, Gary Schmitt, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, Abram Shulsky, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

      I wonder if Aronoff would agree with the suggested similarities between George Smiley and Leo Strauss?

      Keywords: cognoscenti, Drury, Wolfowitz, Siglitz, neoconservative, Calgary school, Chicago school, Bloom, elitism, Rand, politics, political philosophy,


      1. “Schmitt is with the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century. Shulsky, of the RAND Corp. when the essay was written, is now director of the Department of Defense Office of Special Plans. OSP is the infamous alternative intelligence agency created in the immediate aftermath of September 11 by Pentagon hardliners who believed that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies had missed or were soft-peddling evidence of Saddam’s WMD programs and links to al Qaeda. As director of OSP, Shulsky was at the center of administration efforts to weave together bits of intelligence to match their rock-solid belief that Saddam was an imminent and omnipresent threat (Rozen 2003).”

      “Indeed, the Iraq intelligence debacle swirling around Shulsky’s OSP seems to fit some of Le Carre’s enduring revelations about the espionage business: that intelligence is almost always politicized, and that the ideological assumptions and personal obsessions that drive people in the spook world can be as disabling as the secrets and disinformation with which their enemies set about to deceive them (Rozen 2003).”

      2. In March 2005 Joseph Stiglitz (Preston 2005) warned of the consequences of placing Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank.

      Re: Leo Strauss a realist :

      “The topic must appear at first as a very strange one: what possible connection could there be between the tumultuous world of spies and snooping paraphernalia, on the one hand, and the quiet life of scholarship and immersion in ancient texts, on the other? However, intelligence isn’t only involved with espionage and whiz-bang gadgetry; a large part of it deals with the patient piecing together of bits of information to yield the outlines of the larger picture. When one considers that this effort, called “analysis,” often focuses on such major questions as the nature and characteristic modes of action of a foreign regime, then perhaps the juxtaposition of political philosophy and intelligence may seem less far-fetched. Indeed, in his gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness, Leo Strauss may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John LeCarré’s novels (Schmitt and Shulsky 1999).”

      “Robert Pippin, the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago and a critic of Strauss, told me, “Strauss believed that good statesmen have powers of judgment and must rely on an inner circle. The person who whispers in the ear of the King is more important than the King. If you have that talent, what you do or say in public cannot be held accountable in the same way.” Another Strauss critic, Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York University, put the Straussians’ position this way: “They believe that your enemy is deceiving you, and you have to pretend to agree, but secretly you follow your own views.” Holmes added, “The whole story is complicated by Strauss’s idea—actually Plato’s—that philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians.” See Hersh (2003).

      “The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. [...] Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership. How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious. As it happens, Shulsky himself explored that question in a 1999 essay, written with Gary Schmitt, entitled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)”—in Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality. In the essay, Shulsky and Schmitt write that Strauss’s “gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness . . . may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John le Carré’s novels.” Echoing one of Strauss’s major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment.” See Hersh (2003).

      Re: Wolfowitz:

      At Cornell University in the 1960s Wolfowitz lived at Telluride House on the Cornell campus to learn about democracy through the practice of running the house and organizing seminars. In 1963, philosophy professor Allan Bloom served as a Cornell faculty mentor living in the house and had a major influence on Wolfowitz’s political views with his assertion of the importance of political regimes in shaping peoples’ characters.[8] Schmitt observes that Wolfowitz first “became a protégé of the political philosopher Allan Bloom, and then of Albert Wohlstetter, the father of hard-line conservative strategic thinking at the University of Chicago.”[10] That year, Wolfowitz joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King, Jr..[citation needed] According to Schmitt, “At Cornell Mr. Wolfowitz majored in mathematics and chemistry, but he was profoundly moved by John Hersey’s Hiroshima and shifted his focus toward politics. ‘One of the things that ultimately led me to leave mathematics and go into political science was thinking I could prevent nuclear war,’ he said.”[10] Then Wolfowitz went to the University of Chicago to study under Bloom’s mentor, Leo Strauss.[citations needed] Wolfowitz enrolled in Strauss’ courses, on Plato and Montesquieu, but, according to Mann, they “did not become especially close” before Strauss retired. Although Wolfowitz denies it, “in subsequent years colleagues both in government and academia came to view Wolfowitz as one of the heirs to Strauss’s intellectual traditions.”[citations needed] Wolfowitz claimed that, “I mean I took two terrific courses from Leo Strauss as a graduate student. One was on Montesquieu‘s spirit of the laws, which did help me understand our Constitution better. And one was on Plato‘s laws. The idea that this has anything to do with U.S. foreign policy is just laughable.[12][13]” See Wikipedia

      Re: Shadia B. Drury

      “In Drury’s opinion, contemporary society is threatened by a small school of American academics labeled Straussians, after the German born, Jewish-American political scientist, Leo Strauss (1899-1973). She has not shied away from voicing a critical interpretation of Strauss’ work, linking it to American right-wing public policy. In print and on the airwaves she has stated that Straussians are a “cult” (CBC Radio, Michael Enright interview CBC Sunday Edition), a group of dangerous people who need to be exposed and analyzed not in terms of what they say, but what they do. Drury has produced a body of work on the impact of Strauss that has placed her in the position of authority for many students, academics and media personalities. In an effort to espouse political theory with modern political practice, Drury has garnered a rather controversial position in American politics. Part of the criticism she receives comes from her latest book, where she examines “two equally arrogant and self-righteous civilizations confronting one another”. In Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche, Drury regards the contemporary political problem as “thoroughly Biblical.” “Each (civilization) is convinced that it is on the side of God, truth and justice, while its enemy is allied with Satan, wickedness, and barbarism.” (wiki) >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadia_Drury

      In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States for his first term, and the conservative revolution that was slowly developing in the United States finally emerged in full-throated roar. Who provoked the conservative revolution? Shadia Drury provides a fascinating answer to the question as she looks at the work of Leo Strauss, a seemingly reclusive German Jewish emigré and scholar who was one of the most influential individuals in the conservative movement, a man widely seen as the godfather of the Republican party’s failed “Contract With America.” Among his students were individuals such as Alan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind. Strauss influenced the work of Irving Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb and William Kristol, as well as Chief Justice Clarence Thomas and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Drury delves deeply into Strauss’s work at the University of Chicago where he taught his students that, if they truly loved America, they must save her from her fateful enchantment with liberalism. Leo Strauss and the American Right is a fascinating piece of work that anyone interested in understanding our current political situation will want to read (Palgrave review).

      Bibliography and webliography

      Aronoff, Myron J. 1998. The Spy Novels of John le Carré: Balancing Ethics and Politics. St. Martin’s Press.

      Aronoff, Myron J. 1998. The Spy Novels of John le Carré: Balancing Ethics and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.

      Barry, Tom. 2004. “A Philosophy of Intelligence: Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy,” IRC Right Web (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, February 12, 2004).

      Drury, Shadia B. “Leo Strauss.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

      Drury, Shadia B. Alexandre Kojeve: The Roots of Postmodern Politics. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 1994. ISBN 0-312-12092-3

      Drury, Shadia B. The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss. 1st ed. Macmillan: London, 1988. ISBN 0-333-41256-7

      Drury, Shadia B. Leo Strauss and the American Right. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 1999. ISBN 0-312-21783-8

      Drury, Shadia B. Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2004. ISBN 1-4039-6404-1

      Hersh, Seymour M. 2003. “Selective Intelligence: Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?New Yorker. May 12.

      Lobe, Jim. 2003. “US Foreign Policy and Leo Strauss.” Inter Press Service. March 15, 2003.

      Monbiot, George. 2005. “With Wolfowitz Have we forgotten what the World Bank is for?” April 5. >> http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7581

      Preston, Robert. 2005. “Stiglitz Warns of Violence If Wolfowitz Goes to World Bank.” Telegraph. UK. March 20. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0320-01.htm

      Rozen, Laura. 2003. “Con Tract: The theory behind neocon self-deception.” The Washington Monthly. October.

      Schmitt,Gary J. and Abram N. Shulsky. 1999. “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous).” Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime.

      sourcewatch.org. “Leo Strauss.”

      Stiglitz, Joseph. 2002. Globalization and its Discontents. Allen Lane, London.

      ©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Stranger than Fiction: Wolfowitz, Strauss and Smiley.” >> Speechless

      ©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Stranger than Fiction: Wolfowitz, Strauss and Smiley.” >> http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_277dkknnc

      Le Devoir has invited authors to use the tools of philosophy to examine contentious current events. Montreal philosophy professor, Jean Laberge (2007), tackles missionary ecologists in the wake of UN report by invoking the work of the Scottish empiricist and Enlightenment philosopher David Hume (1716-1776). Laberge based his argument on Hume’s meta-ethics, his is-ought problem.

      Laberge (2007) questions the way in which Al Gore, the Pope in this fight against climate change, has turned the issue into a moral imperative. Laberge claims that according to Hume, the statement that global warming is bad is erroneous. It is a confusion between descriptive (is) and prescriptive (ought) statements. The planet is getting warmer. We cannot logically deduce from that, that humans ought to modify behaviour to diminish the impact of climate change. According to Hume’s anthropocentrism, the human faculty of reason serves human interest exclusively, not the environment. “For what does reason discover, when it pronounces any action vicious? Does it discover a relation or a matter of fact? (Hume 1739-40). Facts in themselves are value neutral. Logically, in order to decide whether something is good or bad, there must be a moral sensitivity upon which a judgment could be made. The ‘environment’ is not endowed with a moral sensitivity as humans are.

      Logiquement, pour juger qu’une chose est bonne ou mauvaise, il doit y avoir une sensibilité morale à partir de laquelle un jugement de valeur peut être rendu. Or, au contraire de l’humain, l’«environnement» ne dispose pas d’une telle sensibilité morale (Laberge 2007).

      In the socio-historical context in which Hume was writing he was concerned with distinguishing vulgar reasoning from true philosophy. He argued that there were four sciences: logic, morals, criticism, and politics. He claimed that morals do not result from logical reason and judgment but from tastes, sentiments, feelings and passions.

      Hume distinguishes also between a vulgar [thinker who uses only common language] who proposes a system of morality and a true philosopher, between the thinking of a peasant and a true artisan. Vulgar reasoning shifts from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ imperceptibly without giving a proper explanation or producing evidence.

      “In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprized to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time
      that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason (Hume).”

      Is Laberge suggesting that Gore is a vulgar thinker who has not provided enough evidence for his case? In the case of climate change the science is overwhelmingly clear.

      And humans do have the moral sensitivities which are the basis for making ethical decisions. We also have reason and scientific tools that provide us with experience-based evidence that informs our moral choices. Even Hume describes a political will, a social covenant in which citizens consult and agree upon a common ‘moral’ action.  We are not conscious of most of our mundane, everyday moral choices. Failing to protect forests or watersheds is a moral choice. A couple of decades ago most of us were insensitive to the moral nature of our actions that were destructive to ecosystems. In complex ecological issues where so many political, economics, geography, social and cultural interests converge, we consider ethical dimensions. Science can provide tools for measuring forest regeneration and efficient technologies for implementation. But science itself is not invested with moral sensitivity. It is only through human moral sensitivities that value judgments can be made in regards to unintended risks or side effects. Once science has provided evidence of shared, heightened risks we move from mere truth claims to moral justification for action or inaction.


      Keywords: Hume, philosophy, epistemology, ecology, is-ought, meta-ethics,

      Markie, Peter. 2004. “Rationalism vs. Empiricism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

      Hume, David. 1739-40. “Footnote 13.”Treatise of Human Nature.

      Laberge, Jean. 2007. “Le devoir de philo: le scepticisme de Hume contre les écolos.” Le Devoir. 19 mai.


      Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

      Join 56 other followers