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.