Dada Voles

“The point of cultural analysis is not to measure cultural practices against what they ought to be or ought to have been but rather to understand how they have come to be what they are and why, in being what they are, they ‘accomplish things’ for people.” — Eva Illouz, Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help (2008).

“In a way, the fight over the Great Books canon is more of an intramural scrimmage between two fractions of the cultural elite. The wider fight is over whether there is in fact ANY specialized knowledge or expertise which enhances how we read or use or make culture.” — Tim Burke, Easily Distracted.

“Plate of spaghetti, um um!” — Nico, in “La Dolce Vita.”

Walter Benjamin’s third Principle of the Weighty Tome: “Conceptual distinctions laboriously arrived at in the text are to be obliterated again in the relevant notes.”

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” — Winston Churchill

“It is often said that great achievement requires in one’s formative years two teachers: a stern taskmaster who teaches the rules and an inspirational guru who teaches one to break the rules. But they must come in that order. Childhood training in Bach can prepare one to play free jazz and ballet instruction can prepare one to be a modern dancer, but it does not work the other way around. One cannot be liberated from fetters one has never worn; all one can do is to make pastiches of the liberations of others.” — Michael J. Lewis, art professor at Williams College (thanks to Photon Courier).

“Regardless of an individual’s preferred learning modalities, the discipline he is trying to learn will have demands of its own. If I’m basically an auditory learner and I’m studying fine art, I’d better develop my visual sense. If I’m studying pottery, I’d better improve my ability to think with my hands. A person who grows accustomed to having information presented to him in his preferred learning style will be unable to deal with real-world problems, which show up in many different forms and don’t really care in what form you would prefer to encounter them.” — David Foster (Photon Courier) (thanks to University Diaries).

“I remember an essay by Jean Briggs, an ethnographer who studied child-rearing among the Inuit. One of the things that disturbed her was the practice of setting problems for children, not providing the materials they needed, and teasing them when they failed to solve them. She initially thought it was cruel. She then came to realize that if, for example, an adult Inuit was out seal-hunting on the ice and some of his equipment broke down, the inability to improvise a solution would kill him.” Comment here by John McCreery.

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’” — Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook.

“When inequality is the general rule in society, the greatest inequalities attract no attention. When everything is more or less level, the slightest variation is noticed. Hence the more equal men are, the more insatiable will be their longing for equality.” — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

“So we arrive at the startling conclusion that true competition is identical with true cooperation. Each player tries his [sic] hardest to defeat the other, but in this use of competition it isn’t the other person we are defeating; it is simply a matter of overcoming the obstacles he presents. In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other… both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other.” — W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis.

“The best argument for leaving others alone in their bizarre beliefs, for being curious but not contemptuous, is the recognition of your own capacity to believe things equally as odd.” — Seth Edenbaum of An Unenviable Situation.

“Middle-Class/Working Class
Becoming/Being
Achieving/Belonging
Individual/Group

Thought/Action
Abstract/Concrete
Decorum/Practicality

Past—Future/Present
Entitlement/Undeserving” — Oso Raro, Slaves of Academe

“If we may take an example from outside the sphere of material production, a school-master is a productive worker when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to that relation.” — Marx, Capital vol. 1, 644.

“We shall, of course, not take the trouble to enlighten our wise philosophers by explaining to them that the ‘liberation’ of man is not advanced a single step by reducing philosophy, theology, substance and all the trash to ‘self-consciousness’ and by liberating man from the domination of these phrases, which have never held him in thrall. Nor will we explain to them that it is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and that, in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. ‘Liberation’ is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture, the conditions of intercourse….” — Marx, The German Ideology.

“But in order fully to understand the immediate submission that the state order elicits, it is necessary to break with the intellectualism of the neo-Kantian tradition to acknowledge that cognitive structures are not forms of consciousness but dispositions of the body. That the obedience we grant to the injunctions of the state cannot be understood either as mechanical submission to an external force or as conscious consent to an order (in the double sense of the term). The social world is riddled with calls to order that function as such only for those who are predisposed to heed them as they awaken deeply buried corporeal dispositions, outside the channels of consciousness and calculation. It is this doxic submission of the dominated to the structures of a social order of which their mental structures are the product that Marxism cannot understand insofar as it remains trapped in the intellectualist tradition of the philosophy of consciousness. In the notion of false consciousness that it invokes to account for the effects of symbolic domination, the superfluous term is ‘consciousness’. And to speak of ‘ideologies’ is to locate in the realm of ‘representations’ — liable to be transformed through this intellectual conversion called ‘awakening of consciousness’ — what in fact belongs to the order of belief, that is, to the level of the most profound corporeal dispositions. Submission to the established order is the product of the agreement between, on the one hand, the cognitive structures inscribed in bodies by both collective history (phylogenesis) and individual history (ontogenesis) and, on the other, the objective structures of the world to which these cognitive structures are applied.” — Pierre Bourdieu, Practical Reason, “Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field,” 54-5.

“Philosophers of very diverse stripes propose that philosophy shall take its start from one or another state of mind in which no man, least of all a beginner in philosophy, actually is. One proposes that you shall begin by doubting everything, and says that there is only one thing that you cannot doubt, as if doubting were ‘as easy as lying’. Another proposes that we should begin by observing ‘the first impressions of sense’, forgetting that our very percepts are the results of cognitive elaboration. But in truth, there is but one state of mind from which you can ’set out’, namely, the very state of mind in which you actually find yourself at the time you do ’set out’ — a state in which you are laden with an immense mass of cognition already formed, of which you cannot divest yourself if you would; and who knows whether, if you could, you would not have made all knowledge impossible to yourself? Do you call it doubting to write down on a piece of paper that you doubt? If so, doubt has nothing to do with any serious business. But do not make believe; if pedantry has not eaten all the reality out of you, recognize, as you must, that there is much that you do not doubt, in the least. Now that which you do not at all doubt, you must and do regard as infallible, absolute truth. Here breaks in Mr. Make Believe: ‘What! Do you mean to say that one is to believe what is not true, or that what a man does not doubt is ipso facto true’? No, but unless he can make a thing white and black at once, he has to regard what he does not doubt as absolutely true.” — Peirce, “What Pragmatism Is” (1905).

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” Marx, “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852)

“Those in whose eyes this reticence on the part of heretics is no evil should consider, in the first place, that in consequence of it there is never any fair and thorough discussion of heretical opinions; and that such of them as could not stand such a discussion, though they may be prevented from spreading, do not disappear. But it is not the minds of heretics that are deteriorated most by the ban placed on all inquiry which does not end in the orthodox conclusions. The great harm done is to those who are not heretics, and whose whole mental development is cramped and their reason cowed by the fear of heresy. Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of thought, lest it should land them in something which would admit of being considered irreligious or immoral? Among them we may occasionally see some man of deep conscientiousness and subtle and refined understanding, who spends a life in sophisticating with an intellect which we cannot silence, and exhausts the resources of ingenuity in attempting to reconcile the promptings of his conscience and reason with orthodoxy, which yet he does not, perhaps, to the end succeed in doing. No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

“Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for alike in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts. Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so that they may be thought to exist only by convention, and not by nature. And goods also give rise to a similar fluctuation because they bring harm to many people; for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth, and others by reason of their courage. We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about things which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions that are no better. In the same spirit, therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.” — Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Bk III-1

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