Overweening Generalist

Thursday, July 28, 2016

On Cruelty

One of my favorite academic philosophers is Richard Rorty, who died in 2007. As I read him, he's a sort of radical small "d" democrat who seemed a lot like some of my favorite anarchist characters of personal acquaintance, but Rorty called himself a "bourgeois liberal." His essay on Orwell in Contingency, Irony and Solidarity was marvelous in fleshing out what he thought was the number one value among liberals: cruelty is the worst thing we can do. He was heavily influenced by Judith Shklar in this.

                                                        philosopher Judith Shklar

I recently re-read a bunch of Rorty (and the Shklar essay I linked to above, which I highly recommend) and, while I think we make up our own hierarchy of values and they are not dictated to us from some transcendent being, I subscribe to Shklar's idea. (I wonder about more esoteric readings of Machiavelli, but that's for some other blogspew.) I've been thinking and worrying this topic of treating others cruelly quite a lot lately, for reasons most of you may guess.

In delving into the library of the history of cruelty, I can't help but be cheered by some substantial gains over the centuries. Then again, I'm reminded we have a long way to go. Just today I read THIS.

The human running on the Republican ticket looks at this information and thinks - I'm guessing - "I can be more cruel than that." I have good reason to think the human on the Democratic side knows about this stuff, pretends to not know, and would privately give her assent to its continual practice.

In reading on the history of cruelty: my gawd! There's just so goddamned much, and I have (presumably) finite minutes left before I shuffle off my mortal coil so why don't I do something - anything - less depressing? I guess I get obsessed by certain ideas, even if some of them activate neural circuitry that seems to take a metaphorical machete to anything close to "euphoria."

Montaigne's (d.1592) essay, "Of Cruelty" shows him at his most proto-Modern Humanist. Get a load of this passage:

I do not lament the dead, and should envy them rather; but I very much lament the dying. The savages do not so much offend me, in roasting and eating the bodies of the dead, as they do who torment and persecute the living. Nay, I cannot look so much as upon the ordinary executions of justice, how reasonable soever, with a steady eye. Some one having to give testimony of Julius Caesar's clemency: "he was," says he, "mild in his revenges. Having compelled the pirates to yield by whom he had before been taken prisoner and put to ransom; forasmuch as he had threatened them with the cross, he indeed condemned them to it, but it was after they had first been strangled. He punished his secretary Philemon, who had attempted to poison him, with no greater severity than mere death." Without naming that Latin author, [I tracked it to Suetonius, in my Robert Graves translation of The Twelve Caesars, chapter on Julius, section 74. - OG] who thus dares to allege as a  testimony of mercy the killing only of those by whom we have been offended, it is easy to guess that he was struck with the horrid and inhuman examples of cruelty practices by the Roman tyrants.

I'll say it's "easy to guess," aye. Yea, ya gotta wonder about Suetonius ("mild in his revenges"?), but then I guess he'd seen quite enough. And, you know, something very much on the cruelty level as strangling pirates before nailing 'em to a cross as "merciful" has probably happened somewhere on our planet in the last year, but who knows? CIA torturers? Some Third World dictator (backed by the CIA?); who knows whiskey tango foxtrot goes on in No. Korea...Vladimir Putin, like his presumed ally and/or dupe Trump, merely has journalists killed. It's safe to say Suetonius would consider it almost "right neighborly" to kill a journalist by bashing his head in with a hammer, using contract killers, etc.

                                        Russia's Anna Politkovskaya, human rights activist
                                                      likened to Unistat's
                                        investigative journalist Seymour Hersh

It may not be about making Russia or Unistat "great again" but you can be damned sure a lot of journalists will not look too closely at what might bring on bodily troubles for themselves, or - as Ari Fleischer said after 9/11 in response to a quote from comedian Bill Maher - that it's "a reminder to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do...." (See 98% of the way down on that transcript.)

As far as I know, Maher has not been strangled or nailed to a cross: Now that's progress!

(So far...)

Russian Journalist Murdered: Is Russia's Press Freedom Dead?

                                           искусство Бобом Кемпбелл

Friday, July 15, 2016

Gary Webb, Philip Marlowe, Robert Anton Wilson and Chapel Perilous

Investigative Journalists
I finally caught, on Netflix, Spotlight, this generation's All The President's Men. I had coincidentally been thinking a lot about investigative journalism and journalists and was moved by the story. And how could one not be?

The "Spotlight" group of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe were in the belly of the beast of Catholicism in Unistat. Their footwork, tenacity and courage has seemed to actuate some real change in what seems like an endless run of pedophile priests, with cover-ups going all the way to the Vatican.

The Film Noir Detective Hero
But they were a team, backed by a major metropolitan daily. Woodward and Bernstein: two guys backed by the Washington Post. Still: when I look at ballsy investigative reporting, I keep thinking of some of my favorite characters in my favorite film style: film noir, which flourished in Unistat from 1941-1959, but has never gone away. Some of those films feature the lone private detective who gets hired to do a seemingly simple seedy gig, like finding out if a spouse is cheating. But one thing leads to another, and the detective (Chandler's Philip Marlowe is the best example) finds himself up to his ears in a bigger mystery. Things are not what he thought they were, and he's in great danger.

He's not being paid to solve this big conspiracy - much less report on it for a major newspaper - but he can't help himself: he's the Lone Knight in search of the truth. He takes risks, travels in the labyrinth of The City from the poorest neighborhood to the wealthiest enclaves, trying to piece things together.  Everyone, it seems, is lying to him. But why? He needs to know. He will eventually get knocked out, shot at, drugged, and punched in the solar plexus by hulking meathead gangsters.

He will come out alive, but with the gnosis. The myth of the private detective in films noir: he's a free agent, not well-off, lives by his wits and instinct and street-smart intellect and knows how to talk his way out of a jam and into more knowledge of the situation.

The noir detective drinks, loves beautiful women, and is obviously flawed, and he's no hypocrite. He seems like a profane character, but he's a mostly a man of honor who hates bullshit, who cares about justice in a world that only pays lip service to the idea. In a hopelessly corrupt metropolis, he keeps his integrity. And observes.

It's been noted many times that the Marlowe-type detective harkens back to the Knights of the Grail legends. Which brings us to Chapel Perilous.

Chapel Perilous
I had come across this term when I first tried reading T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland in my early twenties. I didn't follow up on the footnote in the section "What the Thunder said," which tells us to consult "Miss Weston's book." I have since made a study of Jessie Weston's 1919 work of brilliant scholarship, From Ritual to Romance, which studies the Grail legends from primary sources. There are very many variations on Chapel Perilous, with interpolations by later writers. Weston's penultimate chapter covers a few of the versions that involve Chapel Perilous, with Sir Lancelot starring, or sometimes Sir Gawain, and even King Arthur appears.

A generic version of Chapel Perilous: the Knight is riding alone in the forest when a violent storm hits. He finds a chapel in a clearing, often near a cemetery. He'll take refuge from the storm there. He goes in and no one is there, except for a dead knight on the altar, with one long candle lit nearby. There is a window behind and above the altar. Suddenly a Black Hand extinguishes the candle and chapel-shakingly loud haunting voices are heard. The Black Hand looks evil and hideous. Maybe the Knight engages the Black Hand with his sword, and barely makes it out alive.

My favorite version in Weston: King Arthur has fallen off his game: he's a slob and is at risk of losing all fame and prestige he once had. His wife urges him to trek out to the Chapel of St. Austin, which is a very dangerous journey, but may be just the thing to restore Arthur's reputation. He will take with him a young squire, son of (get this) Yvain the Bastard. The squire's name is Chaus. Chaus is like myself: if I have a very exciting and unusual thing to do the next day, I sleep fitfully in anticipatory anxiety.

Chaus decides to sleep in his clothes in the hall, to be ready to roll at daybreak with Arthur. He doesn't want to screw this up. He falls asleep, and then it appears King Arthur has already wakened and left on the journey without him. He immediately jumps up and rushes to his horse, trying to follow the tracks of Arthur's horse. Chaus happens upon a chapel in a glade, near a churchyard. He enters the chapel, but there's no one there, only a dead knight on the altar. There are golden candlesticks burning at the dead knight's head and foot. He takes one of the candlesticks and jams it into one pant-leg, mounts his horse, and goes off searching for Arthur.

Chaus then meets on the road a dark, foul man with a double-edged knife. Chaus asks him, "Have you seen Arthur?" The man says no, but I've met you and you're a thief! You stole that golden candlestick! You're also a traitor. Give me the candlestick! Chaus refuses and the dark man stabs Chaus in the side. Chaus cries out...and then awakens: he'd been asleep in the hall the whole time, yet he has the candlestick and he's been stabbed! Chaus, bleeding out, tells his story, confesses, receives the last rites, and dies.

Weston, after relating many variations of this story, asks what could it all mean? And she's convinced that it is "The story of an initiation (or perhaps it would be more correct to say the test of fitness for an initiation) carried out on the astral plane, and reacting with fatal results upon the physical." (italics in original, pp. 171-172 of the Dover ed.)

Robert Anton Wilson and Chapel Perilous
Robert Anton Wilson uses "Chapel Perilous" as an unforgettable metaphor in his autobiographical book, Cosmic Trigger vol 1 (1977). RAW told Sander Wolff in an interview in 1990 that the "whole book is an account of self-induced brain change." Self-experimentalists and Quantified Self-ies: are you aware that the heritage of your endeavor(s) is brimming with a history of daring, intrepid self-experimentalists like RAW? (I also find Scott Michaelson's take on RAW's self-experimentation compelling: that it was a synthesis of Aleister Crowley and modern neuroscience.) (See Portable Darkness, jacket sleeve, inside cover.)

As I write, there is a group reading of Cosmic Trigger vol 1 going on over at RAWIllumination.net, and if you're reading this at a later date, look for the archives of the reading and the scads of insightful comments and leave your own comments from your reading there, as I sense this is a case in which a "mere blog" will offer up many a nugget for future researchers...

Back to Wilson's take on Chapel Perilous as metaphor:

When researching occult conspiracies, one eventually faces a crossroad of mythic proportions (called Chapel Perilous in the trade). You come out the other side either a stone paranoid or an agnostic; there is no third way. (p. 6, CT1) Wilson describes Chapel Perilous as a mind-state that, while undetectable by any instruments, certainly seems all-too real to the person who finds herself in it. Comparing Chapel Perilous to the human Ego, "once you're inside it, there doesn't seem to be any way to get out again, until you suddenly discover that it has been brought into existence by thought and does not exist outside thought." (p.6)

In reading of Wilson's determination to push his nervous system as far as it can go before it breaks (delving into ceremonial magick, psychedelic drugs, various forms of yoga, a deep research into conspiracy theories, even some investigative reporting on his own, etc, etc, etc...) he finds himself the psychologically functional equivalent of the Knight, alone in the isolated Chapel, with a dead knight before him on the altar, and then the otherworldly Black Hand appears...

What does he do? Read the book!

                                                Gary Webb, investigative reporter

Gary Webb
If you don't know who the reporters/investigators I'm talking about here, you really ought to look into their cases for yourself. (See Michael Hastings and Danny Casolaro too?) There are far too many (luminous) details and I suspect at least half of my readers are familiar with these figures anyway. So I'll try to make it brief: Gary Webb got a line on how the CIA was allowing crack cocaine to flood the streets of Los Angeles, in order to fund their covert war against the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Few believed him, but he was smart, with boundless energy, and he produced a series of reports for the small San Jose Mercury-News that made national headlines. Then, the CIA, with a deplorable amount of help from the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times - the reasons seem complicated: they resented being scooped by a relatively small-town paper and some liked the access the CIA allowed them? - Webb quickly went from award-winner to having his own editor and staff gutlessly retract most of Webb's work. There is much to be learned here, my friends, and it's not for the faint of heart.

Perhaps "mendacious" is too strong a word for these big-time journalists and editors, who, taking the CIA's idea an running with it, decided that Webb's work was shoddy and stoked the fears of an already "conspiracy-theory"- minded African American readership. Webb's own paper took him off the investigation beat and he eventually quit, pursued the story alone, but ended up dead in his hotel room eight years after his breakthrough reporting, with two bullet holes in his head from a .38

I read a lot of the full-frontal assault on Webb in the Big Newspapers. One thing that really troubles me (to this day) is that, apparently, we're not supposed to know that the CIA has been involved with gangsters and thugs and drug smuggling since...before they were even called the CIA! Don't reporters go to the library and read the astonishingly well-documented Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, by Alfred McCoy? How did you miss not reading about the OSS/CIA and their deal with Lucky Luciano and the Mob, the democratic elections in Italy, and the French Connection that flooded the streets of major Unistat cities with heroin?

Another galling thing: many of the "reporters" on the big-city dailies who attacked Webb for stoking conspiracy theories in black communities? Many of them were black themselves. I tracked down a handful and emailed them, politely asking if they've changed their mind about Gary Webb (who turns out to have been right about almost everything, of course). Only one wrote back: Donna Britt, who wrote in the WA Post that the whole CIA/crack cocaine-contra connection "just may not have happened." But still, paranoid cases will go on thinking their conspiracy thoughts. "They know the truth, or one truth anyway: It doesn't matter whether [Webb's "Dark Alliance" series - OG] claims are 'proved' true. To some folks - graduates of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and FBI harassment of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr - they feel so true that even if they're refuted, they'll still be fact to them." (Donna Britt, Washington Post "Finding the Truest Truth," Oct 4, 1996)

Here's what she said in her email to me:

Thanks for your note. The fact is that I honestly don't recall what I wrote about him. That was a long time ago! Sorry to disappoint.....

The boundaries are imaginary. The rules are made up. The limits don't exist....

Apparently she's a book-author now. HERE is her website.

When I think of Gary Webb, I think of his own Chapel Perilous. But: was it brought into existence by thought alone? I think there was more to his. I think Webb's Chapel Perilous somehow has something to do with us.

Other Sources Consulted:
Kill The Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Gary Webb, Nick Schou.

Kill The Messenger (2014 film starring Jeremy Renner as Webb: trailer)

Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack-Cocaine Explosion, by Gary Webb

"Managing a Nightmare: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb," by Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept

Censored 2016: chapter 7, "Dark Alliance: The Controversy and the Legacy, Twenty Years On," by Brian Covert, pp.227-253

Murder, My Sweet (1944 Edward Dmytryk) with Dick Powell as Marlowe
The Big Sleep (1946 Howard Hawks) with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe
Lady in the Lake (1947 Robert Montgomery) with Montgomery as Marlowe
Long Goodbye (1973 Robert Altman) with Elliot Gould as Marlowe
Farewell, My Lovely (1975 Dick Richards) with Robert Mitchum as Marlowe
Chinatown (1974 Roman Polanski) with Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes

                                           I personally posed for this photo. The book was
                                           artist Bob Campbell's idea. In reality, the number
                                           of arms is slightly exaggerated.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

An Idioglossary For Our Reading in the Info-Glut (Partial)

Last I wrote to you few weirdos, I groped toward a small section that I and possibly you encounter in your reading: your readings and their apparent effects on your sensoria.

Another approach would be a gathering of terms. If you're able to make use of even one term, I'll be happy. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

I aim my personal lexicon-blunderbuss, exhale, and fire:

exformation: In my previous blogspew I quoted David Foster Wallace on this term. Here are three other interpretations I've seen: 1.) Everything we don't actually say but which we have in our minds when - or before - we say anything at all. Whereas information is the demonstrable and measurable (in the Shannon sense of the math of information) utterance we actually come out with. 2.) "Useful and relevant information" 3.) A specific sort of information explosion.

I don't have in my notes who I am quoting in #2. I know it seems trivial, and perhaps it is...to you. And that's the very point. #3 seems a lot like DFW's gloss ("a certain quality of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient") to me. #1 reminds me of all those riffs you and your friends have about not coming up with the perfect comeback in time. It's only later when you think, "Oh! That would have been the perfect riposte!" I think the Italian term fare secco qualcuno means this, but I don't quite trust my memory on this...which is an example of exformation?

HERE is the current Wiki on Exformation. That which was not said and that which was explicitly discarded? Tor Norretranders - the neologizer for exformation - wrote a book on consciousness that came out in Unistat around 1999. He said that which our consciousness rejects is the most valuable part of ourselves. Our brains are fantastic processing systems meant for survival. Apparently we make an image of the world in our heads, which is a fantastic strategy for biosurvival, and this nervous system processing information from within and from the environment...including an image of the imager itself, that very helpful phantasm: our "selves." It seems this idea about consciousness keeps being rediscovered and reframed. Just three days ago, George Johnson of the New York Times reported on consciousness in this way. It violates almost all of our notions about our "self" but there we go: my digression is already out of the way for this particular blog article.

Exformation seems to bear some sort of anti-matter family resemblance to Ezra Pound's idea of excernment, which was "The general ordering and weeding out of what has actually been performed. The elimination of repetitions...The ordering of knowledge so that the next man (or generation) can most readily find the live part of it, and waste the least possible time among obsolete issues." - Pound, as quoted in Christine Brooke-Rose's A ZBC of Ezra Pound, p.18. It's one of the functions of the critic, according to Pound.

                               a random beautiful fractal image, because why the hell not?

Noocene Epoch: I forgot how to place the umlaut over that second o. O well. I found this term in another 1999 book, The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader: "How we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we've created." The Noocene seems like a subset time-frame of the newly minted Anthropocene: the period since humans created massive Industrialization.

"Knowledge," not information. We all have our favorite ways to define the difference between these two phantoms. I see knowledge as of drinking age, and it's been around the block. Knowledge tends to grate on our nerves by being a know-it-all, but then it can be contrite and quite charming. Info tries to get away with whatever it can. It's underage, hangs around the pool hall and smokes cubebs stolen from its grandpa and who the hell knows where info will end up? Let's hope it makes good use of itself and doesn't kill somebody.

Wisdom watches both of them and shakes Its head.

componentiality: An aspect of modern consciousness. "Technology induces a cognitive style we call 'componentiality' - breaking up reality into separate components that can be analyzed and manipulated." - found on p.121 of Peter Berger's Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist, when writing about his 1973 book The Homeless Mind

At first glance: what a stupid term. But we swim in a componential world; obviously there were many millennia when human consciousness did not know of such a Damned Thing. It therefore seems manifestly not a stupid term. In fact: Sing to me! O Goddess! Of words that describe something right in front of my face, that I never noticed! I owe you one...

apophenia: German psychologist Klaus Conrad (d: 1961) coined this term, but I picked it up while reading William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition, and he gave at least two glosses in different spots in the book: 1.) "The spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things;" 2.) "Each thing conceived as part of an overarching pattern of conspiracy." (pp.115 and 294)

Possibly related ideas: metanoia, paranoia, abduction in logic, reading Chinese, gestalting, pronoia - all or some of these terms as cited by the OG in the current context as being (possibly?) an example of apophenia. If I have been apophenic here, I blame it all on my reading. Don't look at me. I didn't do it.

Another text I read says people with mental disorders are prone to apophenia. Okay, so maybe I am a little "off." So what? Anyway...here's an interesting Q, and it gets to near the heart of problems of Info-Glut 2016: are experiences of apophenia the symptom of mental illness, or the cause?

enmindment: I'm pretty sure the poet/classics scholar/writer on the "Deep State" Peter Dale Scott minted this term. He contrasts it with "the Enlightenment":

I believe in enmindment
the translation of light
into awareness of the dark
and understanding of that fear
we return to
whenever we forget
-from Minding the Darkness, p11

At first glance, lapping into second, this seems part of the overtone series for exformation, but it addresses an emotional component of it. It certainly seems to address all that reading we do that is not "fiction" that nonetheless makes us feel like we've been reading a horror story, eh?

Kampung culture: Another term copped from Peter Dale Scott. It means "narrow world-view" in Javanese culture. PDS was trying to find out more about Unistat's involvement in the slaughters of East Timor. Suharto, Sukarno, CIA and Dutch imperialism all appear. See p.213 of Minding the Darkness, but I hafta warn ya: it's not pretty. This unpacking of "narrow world-view" can take on some nasty hues. Even after the Dutch left, the Javanese still bathed in the blood of their brothers. Why? Kampung culture:

PDS quoting Pramoedya:

Even in the belly of Dutch power
Java still glorified

its Kampung culture
they bathed in the blood of their brothers
right up through 1966

And because Java was no longer
in the belly of European power
the slaughter reached an unlimited scale

Suffice to say: It Can't Happen Here!

Giambattista Vico used the term sapienza volgare, or "popular wisdom," which to Vico were ideas expressed through myth, rituals, traditions. I do not see this term as the "same" as Kampung culture, but it seems related. (via my own apophenia?)

anamnesis: An SAT-like word I shouldda known, but didn't: To remember. A recalling to mind. Plato's use: all souls need to be stimulated in order to remember an eternal Truth, or to accept axioms as self-evident. Chomsky seems to like this idea. I get it.

jouissance: Obviously French (cough): Enjoyment, or our French brothers and sisters seem to mean "Whatever gets you off." It seems aimed at our transcending of our ordinary/primary "reality." It's probably a good description for why I read. Leo Bersini considers jouissance intrinsically self-shattering and disruptive of the "coherent self." (possibly see McKenna, Terence?) In my delvings into glosses of jouissance a competing term, plaisir, often shows up, trying to get in on the conversation. Plaisir sounds like "pleasure," but it seems to strengthen dogma and individual me-ness. Roland Barthes eloquently defines plaisir as a "homogenizing movement of the ego." Plaisir might be defined as going for what you already know - more of the same stuff - while jouissance seems like an attempt to fracture the structure of the ego, whatever the ego "is," after reading about exformation...

Einfuhlen: Gore Vidal says he got this term from Johann Gottfried Herder, German polymath who died in 1803. Vidal unpacked it thus: "The ability to get into the past, while realizing that it's not just another aspect of the present, with people you know dressed up in funny clothes." I tend to link this term in my own thinking with Vico's entrare, which Vichian Isaiah Berlin described as the force of imaginative insight used to understand remote cultures.

I had always wondered vaguely about this when reading history, and fearing my imagination was falling short. This term helped remind me of how much is missing in history, which I guess we'll just have to learn to live with. The "missing" part, that it. Let us continue to develop our historical imaginations till death parts us! Why? Oh, all the usual reasons, but also: it might help stave off Kampung culture where you live.

unthinking: As opposed to re-thinking: I first noted this term in Immanuel Wallerstein's Uncertainties of Knowledge, p.104: He wanted to emphasize very deep-seated notions that, even though physical sciences have shown to be inadequate, nevertheless stay with us and lead us epistemologically astray. The great anthropologist Weston Labarre gave me a term similar: group archosis: "Nonsense and misinformation so ancient and pervasive as to be seemingly inextricable from our thinking." Thomas Vander Wal coined the study of folksonomics/folksonomy as the ordered set of categories - or "taxonomy" - that emerges from how people tag items, which works in cognitive anthropology. Oh hell: let me drop in another fave here: logophallocentrism, which Robert Anton Wilson interpreted as "We have a social system based on belief in the special magic power of words and penises."

Let's hope all that categorizing leads to something we can cash out and invest in the Sanity Sweepstakes...RAW reminded us we seem to have inherited a lot of our ideas from the apes. No wonder this crap is so hard to root out and overcome! This all seems something akin to...

unspeak: I found this term used by Steven Poole. It's language that "says one thing while really meaning that thing, in a more intensely, loaded and revealing way than a casual glance might acknowledge." I think I know what Poole was getting at here, but I may need to make more multiple glances. Is this like "enhanced interrogation"? I suspect so. Orwell's doublespeak, let's remind ourselves, was a form of language that says one thing while really meaning the opposite. So far, of the thousands of real-life examples, I like Bush43's "Blue Skies Initiative" which would have gutted the Clean Air Act and allowed corporations to dump their toxic garbage - or "negative externalities," in economist's-speak - anywhere they wanted. I may as well tack on cognitive policy, which, according to George Lakoff, is the policy of getting an idea into normal public discourse, which requires creating a change in the brains of millions of people. (see The Political Mind, p.169)

campus imperialism: Coined by Jaron Lanier, as far as I know. He touches on it HERE. Representatives of each academic discipline assume something like a Philosopher-King's eye view of all other disciplines, which are subsumed under their own. It gives rise to thinking such as the very common idea now - I touched on it earlier - that we humans are merely sophisticated computing machines. It's all data-processing, all the way down. While I side with Lanier and other qualophiles (a term I got, ironically, from Daniel Dennett, who seems a qualophobe of some sort): our own experiences seem not covered by any academic domain, while each area of the campus has its own particular ways to model what it thinks is my experience. Okay, this is at least my second digression, but while I'm on it I may as well: currently I see the admittedly brilliant Nick Bostrom's notions about the "Simulation Hypothesis" as taking up a lot of cultural space, perhaps deservedly so. However, a small gaggle of minions will make of this idea - an astounding one for sure! - more than perhaps it deserves: campus imperialism? I will admit the Simulation Hypothesis leaves me pretty damned spaghettified, which is a more extreme step - or colorful phrase! - than having one's mind "blown" or "stretched" by a novel set of facts or ideas.

Which brings me to another German term:

Unbehagen: something like "uneasiness." Einstein felt this in the face of the quantum theory, and he tried to get rid of it the rest of his life, to no avail. Because I'm a Soft Whorfian, I think Germans who use this word mean something a little more than uneasiness, but I don't have the German chops to say so or not. Bostrom's "Simulation Hypothesis" - that there's a better than 50% chance we are all simulations made by other Beings -  makes me feel Unbehagen, but even if it's true I don't know why it should matter. I mean, we were all getting along fairly well before the Sim Hyp, weren't we? Please say we were. Oh hell, it's all just campus imperialism anyway, right? Right?

Much of my reading, on the other hand and ironically and paradoxical to boot, seems to chase after this feeling of Unbehagen. Some H.P. Lovecraft can do it. Much of actual history does it. Certain conspiracy theories can do it. Borges does it, and even Argentines without means do it.

depressogenic: One of my favorite scientist-writers, Robert Sapolsky, used this term in an essay about what might be in all our futures. "Why do I assume we'll all be getting sadder? Mainly because it strikes me that there is so much in our present civilization that is depressogenic." - found in The Next 50 Years.

No comment...

ideology: "Ideas serving as weapons for social interest." - one of my favorite definitions, from Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, in a discussion of Marx.

How much of what we read fits into this definition of ideology? Keep your powder dry. (Or is it "powders"? Let us keep our various powders and powderings dry...)

Alright, I've done enough harm for today. My intent was to maybe give you one term that you might make good use of, not to make you feel even more annoyed (you know the definition) than you already were, which would defeat the purpose of this post.

                                           conception graphique par Bobby Campbell