Archive for the ‘All kinds of blog posts, often with a very low level content.’ Category

A perfect society is different for everyone. In my opinion, we should merely strive for a society in which the balance is kept between as many as possible imperfect visions and ideas.

I’ve heard this sentence a million times before and feel the need to spend a few minutes on it.

First, I agree that a detailed version of a utopian society would be different for everyone.  But once you start talking about specific topics, this already changes. For example, nobody has child poverty or rape in his utopian society. When it comes to particular topics, I’m convinced that many of us have a very similar utopia, namely, we are all against child poverty and rape. Even on a broader scale, I’m sure we’re all against social and ecological detoriation.

Secondly, the statement starts with the multiple utopia and pleads for a utopia in which there is a balance between all the different imperfect “visions and ideas.” I’m not sure if the latter are the utopias or the means towards them. I think he still talks here about the multiple utopia. Nevertheless, all this statement does is claiming that there are multiple utopia and that the ultimate utopia is that one in which all the others are in balance with each other. 

In my view, the different utopia are, when taken in particular cases, often very alike. The main question in politics is how to reach these goals. It’s a matter of selecting the right means and prioritize the particular goals. Not the utopia is multiple in a significant sense, but the means are.

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As a history and philosophy student, I’ve sometimes mocked the homo economicus of the economists. Yet, I always assumed I was attacking a cliche that doesn’t really exist. Joke for joke’s sake.

I just finished reading Economie Toegelicht of Marc De Clercq. It’s a ca 700 pages introduction to economics book, used at the University of Ghent. Surprisingly enough, again and again the same ridiculous sociological axioms were stated! A study of the economy with the individual as foundation in which the latter is an egoistic satisfaction-driven rationalist.

What’s the point of setting up a sociological frame as a foundation for economic theories, when the frame itself isn’t accepted by any sociologist?

This homo economicus analyses the world in terms of numbers based on his personal needs and ways of satisfaction. Economists use this monstrosity as a standard and searches for explanations when people don’t seem to follow this standard. All of this is supposedly “descriptive”. What a joke. The definition of the normal is a political-ethical one that might be defended, but it should at least be recognized as a norm instead of a description.

Maybe I shouldn’t draw to harsh conclusions based on this one textbook. Yet, this is the starting point for every economy student and the only book many other students will ever get about economy at the university.

In the introduction to Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy by Michel Serres, the editors (J.V. Harari and D.F. Bell) wrote a lovely sentence about the accumulation of knowledge and its tendency to specialisation.

They point-out how the different disciplines, but especially the distinction between the exact sciences and the humanities, are growing more and more apart. It’s not merely a conceptual distinction. It’s also something that is institutionalised (different faculties) and noticeable in the different books, programs and other stuff. The cause of this division is found in the practical necessity of specialisation due to the accumulating nature of knowledge. This specialisation has achieved great results.

In this context, they write: “divide in order to conquer“.

While this sentence is usually used to express how someone from above creates unnecessary struggles between others, in this case, it are the searchers for knowledge themselves that create such a division among themselves. Next, they managed to conquer a lot more because of this division!

What a fun change of meaning…

http://www.ptb.be/nieuws/artikel/ukraine-la-tres-grande-majorite-des-ukrainiens-ne-veut-pas-de-cette-nouvelle-guerre-civile.html

An interesting article that points out the huge cultural and economic differences within Ukraine, the problematic role of the nationalist (neo-nazi) party Svoboda, the absence of important classes of society in the news and other platforms (workers, farmers, the unemployed…), the problem of Western media that depends on the English speaking Ukrainians and seems to actively search for people with pro-Western opinions (idem dito for the pro-Russia media and movement), foreign interventions through both economic and political means, oligarchy & corruption

Why haven’t I heard or read anything of this quality in the (I hate to use the word) “mainstream” news?

I don’t care about getting an update every five minutes about a gunshot, catapult or the occupation of some ministry. Take your time, a few hours or even days, and write a proper article. This mini political party in a mini country managed writing a good article about Ukraine. I’m sure the large media companies own the means to reach the same quality.

The most difficult thing about Nietzsche is his name.”

Too many bright people wasted their time on Hegel, let’s move on to something else.”

I only teach Ayn Rand because the funding of my American university highly depends on donations from a bank director who loves Rand. While in fact, she is a bad philosopher and an even worse writer. Europe does right in completely ignoring her.”

Today we will talk about my Karl Marx, my favorite!

The Ayn Rand professor is the only one who actually gave us texts and a lecture about the philosopher he clearly didn’t like. Nietzsche and Hegel only got the one sentence from each professor. Oddly enough, Marx wasn’t part of the lengthy reader.

Once they were allowed to teach about philosophers they actually respected, they were all great professors. Both Hegel and Nietzsche were taught by a different professor in another class. The American visiting professor was right, Ayn Rand is, as far as I know, completely absent in European universities. After reading some texts, seeing movies based on her book and listening to the lecture, I get why she is totally ignored.

Political and philosophical preferences make the classes more exciting and the university as a whole more interesting. It would be problematic when all the professors would have the same preferences. Luckily, this wasn’t the case at all. During my stay there was a Cold War between continental and analytic philosophers. Such fun!

A few years ago I had a first encounter with Slavoj Zizek through through his appearance on a Dutch TV show*. He is funny, provocative and interesting. I’m sure there is no need to introduce him. Sometimes he’s a bit silly. But at other times I’m surprised by his knowledge of various debates in contemporary philosophy. Unfortuantely, some of his writings are working on my nerves. I just read a short article in The Guardian by his hand* about the Mandela memorial and the fake sign language interpreter. Urrgg…

The conclusion is quite alright:

“[…] what he confronted us with was the truth about sign language translations for the deaf – it doesn’t really matter if there are any deaf people among the public who need the translation; the translator is there to make us, who do not understand sign language, feel good.

And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. They were the Absent One to whom Jantjie was signalling, and his message was: the dignitaries really don’t care about you. “

Everything before this is unnecessary blabla. He wants to express a political point. In order to do so, he picks a highly mediatized aspect of the event and interprets it so that it becomes useful for his point. It’s fun to read, but I don’t see any value in it at all. You can write about how former Western politicians were in favor of jailing Mandela, about the ideas  of Mandela and how they conflict with contemporary politicians who were present at the funeral, you can write about a variety of topics to support one point Zizek is trying to make here. You can even keep the exact same conclusion! But at least the article would have some valuable information and a line of reasoning that is not just witty, but also sensible.

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw8LPn4irao

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/16/fake-mandela-memorial-interpreter-schizophrenia-signing?CMP=fb_gu

(2) By the law of excluded middle, either ‘A is B’ or ‘A is not B’ must be true. Hence either ‘the present King of France is bald’ or ‘the present King of France is not bald’ must be true. Yet if we enumerated the things that are bald, and then the things that are not bald, we should not find the present King of France in either list. Hegelians, who love a synthesis, will probably conclude that he wears a wig.” Russell (B.), “On Denoting” In: Mind, New Series, Vol. 14, No. 56 (Oct., 1905), p. 485.

Doctor B. ain’t liking Hegel’s dissing on formal logic and the dialectical logic on the meta level!