Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

What is Enlightenment?

by Jeffersonian Democrat Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 04:58:41 PM EST

x-posted at Boo and Kos

I see trend passing, like a dark storm cloud over western civilization.  A cloud of immaturity, ignorance, superstition, regressive hatred, and self-loathing in the mind of western man (including women in that statement).  In just the last week:

"[Frisco, Texas]...School board members have voted to not renew the contract of a veteran art teacher who was reprimanded after one of her fifth-grade students saw a nude sculpture during a school trip to a museum."

"A leading German opera house unleashed a furious debate over free speech Tuesday by pulling a production over fears it posed a security risk because of a scene featuring the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad.
The Deutsche Oper said it had decided "with great regret" to cancel a planned production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" after Berlin security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions."


So I ask the question: What is Enlightenment?

Bear with me, in patience, as I build my argument and come back to the above stories at the end of the post.
Immanuel Kant had this answer, which I am inclined to agree with (in a Western sense of the Age of Enlightenment, not the Buddhist sense of Enlightenment).

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] "Have courage to use your own understanding!"--that is the motto of enlightenment."

Intellectual history shows that in the early and mid-seventeen hundreds, people like Rousseau, Herder, Voltaire, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, etc. started to link philosophy and language into a societal and political movement.  The material result is evidenced in the American Revolution and the following French revolution and the birth of the bourgeois nation-state.  The Forefathers of the US revolution were heavily influenced by these people and embraced what is known as liberal humanism.  These ideas were written down and manifested in 1789 in the US, manifested the US Constitution; in France as the Rights of Man.

It is reported that President Bush once said, "The Constitution is just a piece of paper" - and he is absolutely right.  It is only a piece of paper.  It is a piece of paper just as those green pieces of paper that come out of the US Treasury are pieces of paper.  What is the actual use of those pieces of paper?  Well, I could roll one up and sniff white powder up my nose with it, that's a use; I could take a piece of paper entitled The US Constitution and wipe my ass with it, that's a use as well.  But these documents are significant because of the ideas behind them, their exchange value, in the form of an idea that we place on them that is greater than the use value [see Marx and exchange value vs. use value].

These are ideas, represented by an object, that give value.  The people mentioned above had ideas (ideas>ideals>idealism).  Thomas Jefferson, a man of Enlightenment ideals of his age, believed that a man should work in the fields all day then go home and read Homer.   So how could what we are seeing in the world happen?

The Age of Reason gave in to the Age of Enlightenment and within Enlightenment came the revolt against cold, hard reason with the movement of Romanticism.  An idea in which the inner "Geist" or spirit of the human being rebelled against the hard reason of logic.  See, philosophers like Kant and Hegel devised metaphysical philosophical systems of absolutes, totality.  Total systems.  I mentioned that philosophy had a great influence on political thought.  These total, absolute systems had influence too [total>totality>totalitarianism].  A good source for the curious reader is Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism" and Adorno/Horkheimer "The Dialectic of the Enlightenment".  Hegel's Dialectic in Phenomenology of the Spirit was a total system but it dealt with the metaphysical stages of human consciousness.  Marx used Hegel's system but replaced the "Geist" with materialism, what we can touch and feel, but still his thinking was a total system.  See where I am going with this?  The Dialectic theory stipulates that we start with a Thesis, it encounters an Antithesis, and they violently clash and merge into a Synthesis.  Hegel's violence was metaphysical in the form of ideas; Marx's was material in the form of revolution.,

So what is Enlightenment, the beginning of Modernism?  It started out as a good idea, the bourgeois rebellion against aristocratic authoritarianism.  But how did it produce so many horrors?   The evolution of intellectual theory shows a line of cause and effect of how that happened.  What we are now locked into is a reaction against further dialectic progress, but humanity cannot stop it - it's our progress whether we like it or not.  So we see violence, we see a regression to ideas that are pre-Enlightenment: the censure of art as mentioned above, the dismantling of early Enlightenment ideas such as the Rights of Man as witnessed this week with the "Torture" Bill.  It is an urge to regress and react to simpler times in which it is not mandatory to think critically, or as Kant said above, to a self-imposed immaturity.  The entertainment industry helps this along greatly with "Survivor"; no farmer is going home to read Homer.

No student is going to an art museum in Frisco, Texas and no one will see Indomeneo in Berlin.  The ideals behind the Constitution and the Rights of Man are under attack; they are the "quaint" ideals of an era of liberal humanism before the industrial revolution.  Why? Because the ideals of the humanities teach humanity in all of our strengths and weaknesses.  The humanities teach progression forward and the is a worldwide attempt now a days to stifle that.  As an old Professor of mine once said "They won't come and arrest literature professors, they'll arrest mathematic and science professors because they teach the indisputable truth, in literature, it always represents the national culture and therefore is used to indoctrinate...they need us.

What happened this last week in Frisco, Berlin, and Washington are only symptoms of a greater disease: the disease of reactionary fear to progress in an overdue turning point in history to a new age.


Display:


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 06:07:38 PM EST
wow, thanks.  I'm not even a TU, I was just content with my number 99 as an UID.  I don't write here often, but rather lurk, because I never feel like I have the background to write anything.  But thanks to ET, I know more now about the EU and her politics, which I find is important if I am to be politically active in my new country - Germany.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 08:09:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the sound of two hands clapping.

Bravo!

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 06:27:16 PM EST
Wow, thanks to you too.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 08:10:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. Every progressive movement runs into a backlash. It's a chance for the Stupid Evil People to strut around and feel important - at least for a while.

But sooner or later it always falls apart for them. France isn't still under the reign of The Terror, and Germany is no longer infested with Nazis.

This time around the NeoCons have worked out that you can hide fascism pretty effectively if you camouflage it as economics and political ideas, instead of doing all of that paramilitary stuff with the uniforms and the saluting, which is just a little bit on the nose by contemporary standards.

Same old song though.

I think we'll know if it's all over for the West in a month or two after the US elections. If there's no change of direction, it's probably time to move somewhere remote with a few chickens, maybe a goat or two, some land to grow things on and a good source of firewood.

Philosophically the West lost the plot because the Enlightenment could never live up to its own PR. A Declaration of the Rights of Man is just a little hard to take seriously when you've genocided all of the natives on your continent.

Criticism of this kind of minor inconsistency was inevitable, which is why we have post-modernists and feminists and Marxists pointing out how it's all the fault of the white guys.

Clue time - the white guys did a lot of stupid, often bad, things. That doesn't mean their ideas are totally wrong in a wholesale kind of a way. Or that non-white non-guys by definition would have done things any better. (If you really want to lose your lunch, try reading about what was going on in Africa or Asia before the white guys arrived. A lot of it really wasn't pretty.)

So here we are with this tainted thing called an Enlightenment that no one really believes in any more because we've thrown out baby, bath water, bath and all interior fittings in our effort to assuage collective guilt over previous mistakes.

No wonder the ReligioWankers - and I in no way distinguish between labels or skin colour in that description - are happy to come in and fill the gap. They love to tell others what to do, so it's an easy win for them.

But what about some philosophical leadership from the progressives? Not just whining about what the bad people are doing, or complaining that if we don't switch to solar we're dooooomed - but doing something to inspire people with a vision?

It's that vision thing that's lacking at the moment. The other side has one, even though it's a stupid and evil one.

We, mostly, don't.

It would be good to think we can find something like it again, soonish. Because it's getting to the point where now would be a really good time.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 28th, 2006 at 07:54:22 PM EST
Evil progresses, or evolves, just as human knowledge and compassion. Too often the assumption is made that whatever evil we see now, it appeared numerous times before, or that it is a norm of human existence. That is an easy excuse for new evil. Some scenarios of good and evil might be indeed appearing repeatedly. But technology and scale do matter. Certainly in the 20th century, new "landmarks" of evil were achieved.

The West is loosing its soul and the World not because Enlightenment had failed too often. The reason is that the Dark side of the West is evolving faster and more vigorously than the Enlighted side. As the most capable and powerful civilization of the last 600 years, the West had a chance to set the standards of ethics, knowledge, mutual understanding and compassion. Instead, the West effectively set "powerful" standards of greed, destructive expansion, blind exploitation and public deceit. (The world is learning well.)

Will Enlightenment win? Well..., the greed will loose, I suppose. Whatever heroic scenarios there might be, my guess is that the little nuisance known as global climate change will be the most decisive force in sorting everything out.

by das monde on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 03:19:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Evil progresses, or evolves, just as human knowledge and compassion.

This is the dynamic I view societies through, although using different terms - those who want to control others vs those who are generally peaceful and want to do their own thing instead of evil vs good.

The reason is that the Dark side of the West is evolving faster and more vigorously than the Enlighted side.

I agree, and I think what specifically happened is that the masses haven't been able to adapt to propaganda techniques that were developed in the early 20th century using the then new-ish science of psychology. Combined with the powerful mass distribution channels that were developed during the same era (TV, radio, and newspapers which came a bit earlier) to deliver these carefully constructed messages, it was too much to overcome.

This is cheap to say now days but I think the web is the first effective tool we've had to do an end run around the above juggernaut.

my guess is that the little nuisance known as global climate change will be the most decisive force in sorting everything out.

I agree - a reduction in social complexity / controllable energy is needed to reduce the amount of power that any one individual can wield. Of course it's a complex issue as a fracturing world can devolve to warlordism easier than it can to a largely peaceful world enjoying lower levels of state coercion.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always believed that Fascism, by definition, is a national phenomenon.  What work for Mussilini would not work for Franco, would not work for Hitler.  The dynamics are the same, sure, but not the exact same aesthetics.

I also believe that "nation" comes from the latin natio, meaning people or Volk.  It is an ethnic group united by language and territory.  The French were the first to combine the nation with the state, or one ethnic group into a political and territorial entity and this is the modern day nation-state.

I do not believe the United States fits into that definition, it is a countrty made up of many nations.  I think the children of the Enlightenment understood this and admired the United States as "the great experiment" for it.  It is hard for "nationalism" to take root there.  So what makes up that vacuum?  Our "Patriotism".  You don't have to all be blonde hair-blue eyed for that.  It's more inclusive.  What other traits can be exploited to further the us/them divide?  Fundamental Christianity of course.  This is where I believe, as I've said this for a few years now (just that no one calls me crazy anymore), fascism will manifest its dynamic in the US.

I agree that the ideals of the Enlightenment are not what is to blame for the horrors that have transpired since the French Revolution.  I believe it is the logical evolution of ideas from that time that had contributed, all of the "-isms" if you will.  I include capitalism in that list, however I also believe capitalism no longer exist.  Material capital is more and more evolving into digits with too much exchange value attributed to a firms holding and which in turn creates these bubbles that deflate.  I see this as Hyper-Capitalism, something different than how many factories, machines, and workers the industrialist has.  I think this system is very fragile and can have devasting consequences if soemthing isn't done to keep it from running amok.  The US deficit I believe is a prime example of what I'm trying to speak of.

Raising sheep in Iceland just doesn't seem to be a bad idea anymore.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 03:56:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the US is evolving to fit the definition as American pop culture has homogenized and become more "color blind". America is becoming one nation defined by the corporate entertainment industry, regardless of ethnicity or regional differences.
by Jett on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 11:40:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that isn't the definition of a nation.  It's important, at least in my field, not to confuse nation and country or the population of a country.  It would be like a scientist calling an electron a proton.  Even Native American tribes call themselves nations, and they are right: the Sioux are a different nation as the Cherokee, and the United states is a country with a populace made up of multiple nations.  Anglo-Saxons can be considered a nation within the US and in the 1800's they attempted to subjugate all other nations making up the populace of the country: Native Americans, Afrian Americans during slavery and after, Irish, Italian, etc.

This is the problem with the Balkans.  If you look at a demoigraphic map, colored with different nations in Europe, you will see mostly Poles in the territory of Poland, French in the territory of France (let's leave out populations of colonization for the moment), but in the Balkans, it's a polka-dot map: Serbs, Albanians, Bosians, Slovaks, etc.

That is why I set the terms of definition of a Nation-State based on the Latin "Natio" meaning an ethnic population joined by similarities in language and territory.

What the US is is historically unique and gives Americanists lots of exciting material to research.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you may be missing my point - popular entertainment is unifying those disparate nations into a single nation. Ethnic identity as the basis of nationhood is being eroded in the US, or at least superseded by pop culture. Under your definition, a new ethnic population is being forged via the corporate entertainment industry.

In other words - if I moved to France could I ever be part of the French nation? I don't think nationhood is genetically determined, it's cultural. If I adopt "Frenchness" then I am a Frenchman. In the case of America it is a fundamental "Americanness" (created and propagated by popular entertainment).

by Jett on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good observation.  

"In other words - if I moved to France could I ever be part of the French nation? I don't think nationhood is genetically determined, it's cultural. If I adopt "Frenchness" then I am a Frenchman. In the case of America it is a fundamental "Americanness" (created and propagated by popular entertainment)."

I would argue no, you will never be a Frenchman as I will never be a German.  BUT, you would be a French citizen.  Wow, this is a very interesting subject, especially in modern Critical Theory and cultural studies.  But no, by definition, no.

Popular entertainment IS forming a single mindset of "Americaness", I will grant you that.  But that Americaness could be the subject of several dissertations and is far beyond the scope of a blog.  I still argue that "American" is not nationalism, or a nation.  Ours is a country of immigrants and multiple nations, I stand by that assertion.  However, American "identity" is a separate issue and I would consider your legitimate argument to fall into that catagory rather than "nation".

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:49:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought the US was "one nation under God, indivisible". And that children across the land have to stand and say that aloud every day for years.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:52:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and that is a huge problem that I have with ideology.  The Pledge of Alliegence was not created when the US was.  Things have been added, especially in the 50s, where I believe the "under God" made it's way in there.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is far beyond the scope of a blog

Why?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:54:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He means "a blog post". He thinks he has a limited allowance ;-)

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 12:58:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. Yes, we've started rationing electrons now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:01:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just digging in the archives and I found a comment of yours where you said you were not "part of the inner circle" here. LOL

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How the mighty have fallen.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because this question really deserves much more research into sources and thinkers to do it justice.  This question is truly a subject for an essay in a peer-reviewed academic journal.  It's very legitimate as a question and deserves more than the little educational rememberances that I have off of the top of my head, I've only been published once.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:04:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perfection as the enemy of good.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm - so Mel Gibson is not an Australian? Jose Bove is not a Frenchman?

In my view nations are fundamentally cultural - if I spent a few decades becoming a Frenchman then I would be a Frenchman, regardless of whether I was born into it. I suppose we have different views of this, it sounds like genetics plays some role in your view?

Re: America as a nation - I'll agree that there are still multiple "American nations". The process is ongoing and I think many nations are, to some extent, "subnations" (or perhaps hybrids of the dominant "color blind" corporate-produce pop-culture nation and other nations). If the process is sustained over the long-term eventually "American" will be a nation as you define it (minus whatever genetic component you include, although that could be part of it too assuming there is enough "inter-breeding" between members of the existing American nations).

What is it you do exactly? As a profession I mean.

by Jett on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:11:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone else do the rant about nations, and especially national cultures, being constructed by romantic assholes in the 18th and 19th? I'm not in the mood.

I mean "Frenchman" is bullshit. What does it mean? How do you qualify culturally?  Do you have to be Catholic? Atheist? Drink wine? What? Tick ten out of fifty boxes? Is being able to do a gallic shrug a prerequisite?

Most of the categories of identities we use are nonsensical and overlapping. Which leads me nicely to this review on Stumbling and Mumbling

The big idea in Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence is simple and true. We all have multiple identities, many different groups with which we identify:

I can be, at the same time, an Asian, a British citizen, a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry, an American or British resident, an economist, a dabbler in philosophy, an author, a Sanskritist, a strong believer in secularism and democracy, a man, a feminist, a heterosexual, a defender of gay and lesbian rights, with a nonreligious lifestyle, from a Hindu background, a non-brahmin...This is just a small sample of diverse categories to each of which I may simultaneously belong.

It is, he says, cruel, tyrannical and stupid to reduce us to single identities. And yet this is what British multi-culturalism - which he re-names called "plural monoculturalism" - does. It reduces people to members of religious communities.

In my views nations are yet another nonsensical way of putting people into convenient boxes.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:21:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone else do the rant about nations, and especially national cultures, being constructed by romantic assholes in the 18th and 19th? I'm not in the mood.

We should write it out once and for all and put it in the site FAQ. LOL

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:29:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]


"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we cannot analyze.  The key in this quote is "a British citizen" and not a "Briton" - though I was under the impression that there were only subjects and not citizens in the UK.  Sure it can be used cruelly, but without catagories, of a difference, we could not identify a Democrat from a Republican, for example.

Catagories are very important for study, unfortunately they are equally important for persecution, which I believe the author of the quote is speaking about if I got the context correct.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:34:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but when we start attaching importance to categories our analysis will go awry.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:37:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but rather linquistics, that's more akin to my field.  But look, without getting into academic arguments, look at Europe today.  I live in Germany today.  There have been Turks here since the 50's.  I have not run into one German who would say that the Turks are German even though they may be second or third generation born here.  That's only empirical and personal evidence, mind you.

I invite our French colleagues to enter here and also comment on Algerians in France in regard to this question.

In the US, which this has traditionally been a strong point for our country, the minute you gain citizenship you are considered an American.  Not here where I live now.  It is cultural...and linguistic, which goes far beyond just language (see Chomsky, for example).

So, yes, we will probably disagree on this issue, I will only leave a final comment on the concepts of nationality and other issues in general: beware of conventional wisdom and common sense, always question.  Just like you questioned me ;-)

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:26:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany: ius sanguinis.

France: ius soli.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 01:28:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I had the grounding in Philosophy, and the accumulated reading, necessary to do this justice.

My intuition, and the reason why Robert Pirsig ("Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and "Lila") is a shining beacon to me, is that we have become prisoners of definitions and the Dialectic and that BEHIND it all is the indefinable (or, better, definable only in relaive terms) "Quality" - a "pre-intellectual Reality".

Progress in a dialectic is strictly limited to the assumptions that underpin it.

A fascinating example for me recently was a study finding that those companies who implemented the process-optimising "Six Sigma" strategy beloved of "Neutron" Jack Welch et al tended to do worse than those that didn't, since they were busy optimising what they were doing already, as opposed to going "outside the box/dialectic" in order to address the real world challenges they face.

Perhaps the biggest culprits in the stifling of the "Enlightenment" has been the legal concepts of "State", "Property", (and "Freehold" or "Leasehold"; "Debt" or "Equity" in particular)

These embody Absolutes and lead to distinctions, and to dialectics between Subject and Object.

So we distinguish between the State and the Individual, when what is necessary is a participative State in which all citizens are Members, and from which they are not alienated.

We have the dichotomy, based upon Time, of:
(a) "Absolute" or Infinite or Permanent ownership eg Freehold Property and (the "Divine Right of Capital") Shares in a Joint Stock Corporation aka "Equity" Capital;
(b)Temporary or "For a Defined Period" Use; eg Leasehold Property and Debt Capital.

My own Enlightenment in the last couple of years has been the realisation that we may step outside the Dialectic through the use of the "Indefinite".

ie the Scots "Not Proven" space between the "Guilty" and "Not Guilty" verdicts.

This gives us what I call "Open" Capital where the Capital user shares revenues or production with the Capital provider FOR AS LONG AS THE CAPITAL IS USED - ie an indefinite period.

In taking this relational approach to State, Property, Money, Time and all of the absolutes we are bounded by, we may simply step outside the ideological assumptions bedevilling Society and the (often literally) murderous dialectic.

Pirsig was the first to understand that the dialectic may have given us the modern world and everything we have, but at what a price?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 05:11:24 AM EST
I haven't read him, though I've heard of his works.  It seems to me that his point runs along the same lines as what Jacques Derrida argued, that is there is no origin, or as Hegel would put it, I think, point of immediacy.  That was controversial because it basically ursurps all speculative philosophy going back to Plato.

I am not familiar enough with either to make an intelligent argument on the issue one way or the other.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 08:17:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Pirsig is arguing that Plato is where the World went both right, and wrong.

If anyone before him ever thought (or maybe expressed in writing!) the thoughts that Pirsig did, I have never come across them.

But the books are well worth a read.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 11:56:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant.
Changing my sig to "Sapere aude".


-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 05:56:06 AM EST
I'm sorry I can't be as enthusiastic about this as some others here, but then you correctly note that:

"Because this question really deserves much more research into sources and thinkers to do it justice.  This question is truly a subject for an essay in a peer-reviewed academic journal.  It's very legitimate as a question and deserves more than the little educational rememberances that I have off of the top of my head ..."

Of course it has been the subject of many essays in academic journals, as well as a number of books. These tend to be critical of the kind of generalizations you make, which echo postmodernist travesties of the Enlightenment, e.g.:

 "See, philosophers like Kant and Hegel devised metaphysical philosophical systems of absolutes, totality.  Total systems.  I mentioned that philosophy had a great influence on political thought.  These total, absolute systems had influence too [total>totality>totalitarianism]."

This is an absurd  simplification. Like ancient philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, they did aim to provide very general theories, but this is hardly the same as endorsing totalitarianism - which Kant would certainly have rejected. Hitler was not exactly a model of  an Enlightenment thinker, quite the reverse; in fact some of his ideas stemmed from Romanticism, according to J.P. Stern in "Hitler: The Fuhrer and the People".

"So what is Enlightenment, the beginning of Modernism?  It started out as a good idea, the bourgeois rebellion against aristocratic authoritarianism.  But how did it produce so many horrors?"

Talk about begging the question; "it" didn't produce later horrors, people like Hitler, Stalin, etc. did.

 For an informed article, bringing out the complexity of the Enlightenment, see, for example, Roy Porter:

Tuesday June 12, 2001, Guardian Unlimited

What was the Enlightenment?

"Its much-vaunted humanitarianism had led (so many Victorians accused) to the crimes against humanity committed in the French Revolution and thereafter. Unsympathetic critics, nowadays postmodernist as well as conservative, still make similar insinuations
...

In the light of the triumph of Newtonian science, the men of the Enlightenment argued that experience and experiment, not a priori reason, were the keys to true knowledge. Man himself was no less a feeling than a thinking animal. No doubt, as Goya observed, the 'sleep of reason produces monsters'. But, divorced from experience and sensitivity, reason equally led to error and absurdity, as Voltaire delightfully demonstrated in his philosophical novel Candide, in which the stooge, Dr Pangloss, is so blinded by his Leibnizian metaphysical conviction that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds', as to become utterly indifferent to the cruelty and suffering going on under his best of all possible noses.

As Gay has emphasized, the exponents of Enlightenment were neither rationalists, believing that reason was all, nor irrationalists, surrendering their judgement before feeling, faith, intuition and authority. They criticized all such simple-minded extremes, because they were, above all, critics, aiming to put human intelligence to use as an engine for understanding human nature, for analysing man as a sociable being, and the natural environment in which he lived. Upon such understanding would the foundations for a better world be laid.

...The pen may not have been mightier than the sword, yet Enlightenment words did prove dangerous weapons. Those making quills their arrows were not the grovelling mouthpieces of absolutist rulers, but freebooters, those intellectual bandits who have ensured the intellectual anarchy of 'free societies' ever since."

http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/books/story/0,10595,514622,00.html

As to your references to recent examples of irrationality and prejudice, I suggest that you don't pay too much attention to particular examples which the media highlight. The fact is that all over the world the basic ideas of the Enlightenment tend to be the dominant ones, guiding most education, science and technology for example. While these specific cases are deplorable they do not represent dominant practice, which goes on as a vast background, unremarked by the media just because it is the norm. This is not to say that I am complacent about attempts of religious fundamentalists of all kinds to turn the clock back, but the tide of history is against them - in my enlightened opinion :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Sep 29th, 2006 at 08:37:16 PM EST
thanks for broaching this venerable cask...

down in the murk, among the must and dregs, there is still good wine.

it behoves us to do some serious filtering, and this diary is a worthy effort.

perhaps emerson and thoreau have taken the essence and americanised it, to our benefit, imo.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Sep 30th, 2006 at 03:15:22 AM EST
The results of this Google search: ["The Constitution is just a piece of paper" Bush] persuade me that he never actually said that. The highly-ranked returns show the pattern of a rumour, not a sourced fact.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Sat Sep 30th, 2006 at 03:58:53 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]