Category: Other Stuff

“Human freedom stands out as an apparent fact of our consciousness, while it is also, I conceive, a highly probable deduction of analogy from the nature of that portion of the mind whose scientific constitution we are able to investigate. But whether accepted as a fact reposing on consciousness, or as a conclusion sanctioned by the reason, it must be so interpreted as not to conflict with an established result of observation, viz.: that phænomena, in the production of which large masses of men are concerned, do actually exhibit a very remarkable degree of regularity, enabling us to collect in each succeeding age the elements upon which the estimate of its state and progress, so far as manifested in outward results, must depend.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought

“It is the business of science not to create laws, but to discover them. We do not originate the constitution of our own minds, greatly as it may be in our power to modify their character. And as the laws of the human intellect do not depend upon our will, so the forms of the science, of which they constitute the basis, are in all essential regards independent of individual choice.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought

“He took home many women, and one day he found that he had en noua. He knew that was a bad disease, because it stays in the blood and eats the nose from inside. ‘A man loses his nose only long after he has already lost his head.’ He asked a doctor for medicine. The doctor gave him a paper and told him to take it to the Pharmacie de l’Etoile. There he bought six vials of penicillin in a box. He took them home and tied each little bottle with a silk thread, stringing them so that they made a necklace. He wore this always around his neck, taking care that the glass vials touched his skin. He thought it likely that by now he was cured, but his cousin in Fez had just told him that he must go on wearing the medicine for another three months, or at least until the beginning of the moon of Chouwal.” – Paul Bowles, “He of the Assembly”

“Then it happened. The lighted end of a cigarette touched me in the fleshy part of my upper left arm. That was all. It just felt like a sudden burn and nothing worse. The burned part did not seem to be any larger in area than that part which could be burned by the lighted end of a cigarette. At the time there was no feeling within the arm, that is, no feeling as to aches or pain … Then the second one hit. It nicked the top of my left shoulder. And again came the burning sensation, only this time the area affected seemed larger … And then the third one struck me … there came a crash. It sounded to me like someone had dropped a glass bottle into a porcelain bathtub … it seemed that everything in the world turned white … pure white … I did not know whether I was alive or dead, but I did know that my mind was still working … I brought my right hand up toward my face and placed it to the left of my nose. My fingers rested on something soft and wet. I withdrew the hand and looked at it. It was covered with blood. As I looked at it, I was not aware that my entire vision was confined to my right eye, although there was considerable pain in the entire left side of my face … a bullet striking the ground immediately under my left cheek bone had ricocheted upward, going completely through the left eye and then crashing out through my forehead, leaving the eyeball and upper eyelid completely halved, the lower eyelid torn away, and a compound fracture of the skull.” – Floyd Gibbons, “Wounded—How It Feels to Be Shot”

“Now and then we were bitten and stung by the venomous fire ants, and ticks crawled upon us. Once we were assailed by more serious foes, in the shape of a nest of marabunta wasps, not the biggest kind, but about the size of our hornets. We were at the time passing through dense jungle, under tall trees, in a spot where the down timber, holes, tangled creepers, and thorns made the going difficult. The leading men were not assailed, although they were now and then cutting the trail. Colonel Rondon and I were in the middle of the column, and the swarm attacked us; both of us were badly stung on the face, neck, and hands, the colonel even more severely than I was. He wheeled and rode to the rear and I to the front; our horses were stung too; and we went at a rate that a moment previously I would have deemed impossible over such ground. In these forests the multitude of insects that bite, sting, devour, and prey upon other creatures, often with accompaniments of atrocious suffering, passes belief. The very pathetic myth of ‘beneficent nature’ could not deceive even the least wise being if he once saw for himself the iron cruelty of life in the tropics. Of course ‘nature’—in common parlance a wholly inaccurate term, by the way, especially when used as if to express a single entity—is entirely ruthless, no less so as regards types than as regards individuals, and entirely indifferent to good or evil, and works out her ends or no ends with utter disregard of pain and woe.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness (ed. Dain Borges)

“The thing, the fact, is; and it is merely because it is. It is—that is the essential point for sense-knowledge, and that bare fact of being, that simple immediacy, constitutes its truth.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit (trans. J. B. Baillie)

“The political, ethical, social, philosophical problem of our days is not to try to liberate the individual from the state, and from the state’s institutions, but to liberate us both from the state and from the type of individualization which is linked to the state. We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries.” – Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power”

“The advance of bio-power is contemporary with the appearance and proliferation of the very categories of anomalies—the delinquent, the pervert, and so on—that technologies of power and knowledge were supposedly designed to eliminate. The spread of normalization operates through the creation of abnormalities which it then must treat and reform. By identifying the anomalies scientifically, the technologies of bio-power are in a perfect position to supervise and administer them. This effectively transforms into a technical problem—and thence into a field foe expanding power—what might otherwise be construed as a failure of the whole system of operation. Political technologies advance by taking what is essentially a political problem, removing it from the realm of political discourse, and recasting it in the neutral language of science. Once this is accomplished the problems have become technical ones for specialists to debate. In fact, the language of reform is, from the outset, an essential component of these political technologies. Bio-power spread under the banner of making people healthy and protecting them. When there was resistance, or failure to achieve its stated aims, this was construed as further proof of the need to reinforce and extend the power of the experts. A technical matrix was established. By definition, there ought to be a way of solving any technical problem. Once this matrix was established, the spread of bio-power was assured, for there was nothing else to appeal to; any other standards could be shown to be abnormal or to present merely technical problems. We are promised normalization and happiness through science and law. When they fail, this only justifies the need for more of the same. Once the hold of bio-power is secure, what we get is not a true conflict of interpretations about the ultimate worth or meaning of efficiency, productivity, or normalization, but rather what might be called a conflict of implementations. The problem bio-power has succeeded in establishing is how to make the welfare institutions work; it does not ask, What do they mean?” – Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics

“In disciplinary technology, the internal organization of space depends on the principle of elementary partitioning into regular units. This space is based on a principle of presences and absences. In such a simple coding, each slot in the grid is assigned a value. These slots facilitate the application of discipline to the body. . . . Individuals are placed, transformed, and observed with an impressive economy of means. For the most efficient and productive operation, it is necessary to define beforehand the nature of the elements to be used; to find individuals who fit the definition proposed; to place them in the ordered space; to parallel the distribution of functions in the structure of space in which they will operate. Consequently, all of space within a confined area must be ordered; there should be no waste, no gaps, no free margins; nothing should escape.” – Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics

“People are somewhat gorgeous collections of chemical fires, aren’t they? Cells and organs burn and smolder, each one, and hot electricity flows and creates storms of further currents, magnetisms and species of gravity—we are towers of kinds of fires, down to the tiniest constituents of ourselves, whatever those are, those things burn like stars in space, in helpless mimicry of the vastness out there, electrons and neutrons, planets and suns, so that we are made of universes of fires contained in skin and placed in turn within a turning and lumbering universe of fires.” – Harold Brodkey, “Angel”

“We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand. So identifying narratives in abstract activities such as music and sport seems inevitable: if they lacked the properties that make this possible, they wouldn’t catch on, because they would seem pointless and unintelligible. Looked at this way, we might wonder if the ultimate intelligibility of the universe will be determined not so much by the capacity of our minds to formulate the appropriate concepts and equations, but by whether we can find a meaningful story to tell about it.” – Philip Ball, “The Story Trap”

“We have more moral, political, and historical wisdom than we know how to reduce into practice; we have more scientific and economical knowledge than can be accommodated to the just distribution of the produce which it multiplies. The poetry in these systems of thought is concealed by the accumulation of facts and calculating processes. There is no want of knowledge respecting what is wisest and best in morals, government, and political economy, or at least, what is wiser and better than what men now practise and endure. But we let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, like the poor cat in the adage. We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine; we want the poetry of life; our calculations have outrun conception; we have eaten more than we can digest.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry” (emphases in original)

“When we build a cyclotron to search for elementary particles, we do not observe elementary particles; we observe what happens when we try to search for elementary particles.” – William Irwin Thompson, Passages About Earth

“Scientists now work as stonemasons did once on cathedrals. They put the stones next to one another with great attention to detail and the work of the fellow next to them, but they have no sense of the architectonics of the whole. And sometimes they do not even have a sense of the purpose of a cathedral.” – Werner Heisenberg (interviewed by William Irwin Thompson in Passages About Earth)

There’s two types of harnessThere’s two types of harness

“Society is the sum of social relations, and among these relations we can distinguish two extreme types: relations of constraint, whose characteristic is to impose upon the individual from outside a system of rules with obligatory content, and relations of cooperation whose characteristic is to create within people’s minds the consciousness of ideal norms at the back of all rules. Arising from the ties of authority and unilateral respect, the relations of constraint therefore characterize most of the features of society as it exists, and in particular the relations of the child to its adult surrounding. Defined by equality and mutual respect, the relations of cooperation, on the contrary, constitute an equilibrial limit rather than a static system. Constraint, the source of duty and heteronomy, cannot, therefore, be reduced to the good and to autonomous rationality, which are the fruits of reciprocity, although the actual evolution of the relations of constraint tends to bring these nearer to cooperation.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

How to make a democratHow to make a democrat

“The essence of democracy resides in its attitude towards law as a product of the collective will, and not as something emanating from a transcendent will or from the authority established by divine right. It is therefore the essence of democracy to replace the unilateral respect of authority by the mutual respect of autonomous wills. So that the problem is to know what will best prepare the child for its future task of citizenship. Is it the habit of external discipline gained under the influence of unilateral respect and of adult constraint, or is it the habit of internal discipline, of mutual respect and of ‘self-government’? It may be, of course, that only those who have gone through the external discipline imposed by a master will be capable later on of any inner discipline. This is the commonly accepted view, but it requires to be verified. The proof, however, would not be an easy one to establish, for considering the large number of people who reject all discipline as soon as they have escaped from school and home ties, or who for the rest of their lives are capable only of external discipline and legal morality, it may very well be that it is in spite of adult authority, or in spite of certain kinds of adult authority, that the best of our young people sooner or later adopt a disciplined way of living.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Daddy sky-god boss manDaddy sky-god boss man

“Social constraint—and by this we mean any social relation into which there enters an element of authority and which is not, like cooperation, the result of an interchange between equal individuals—has on the individual results that are analogous to those exercised by adult constraint on the mind of the child. The two phenomena, moreover, are really one and the same thing, and the adult who is under the dominion of unilateral respect for the ‘Elders’ and for tradition is really behaving like a child. It may even be maintained that the realism of primitive conceptions of crime and punishment is, in certain respects, an infantile reaction. To primitive man, the moral and the physical universe are one and the same thing, and a rule is both a law of nature and a principle of conduct. For this reason, crime threatens the very existence of the universe and must be mystically set at naught by a suitable expiation. But this idea of a law that is both physical and moral is the very core of the child’s conception of the world; for under the effect of adult constraint the child cannot conceive the laws of the physical universe except in the guise of a certain obedience rendered by things to rules. As to ideas of punishment and expiation, how could they have become so widespread in the adult community if men had not all first been children, and if the child had not been from the very beginning of his mental development respectful towards the decisions of the adult who reprimands him and punishes him? Under the effects of social differentiation and cooperation, on the contrary, the individual is less and less dominated by the cult of the past and by the forced conformity which accompanies it. He then becomes really adult, and the infantile traits that mark the conformist spirit make place for the features that are the outcome of cooperation. Thus autonomy of conscience takes the place of heteronomy.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Someone will have to paySomeone will have to pay

“Every society consists primarily in a collection of beliefs and feelings forming a whole which must be defended. The kernel of these beliefs is the feeling of the sacred, the source of all morality and religion. Whatever offends against these powerful and well-defined feelings is crime, and all crime is sacrilege. A crime that breaks down the social bond takes on, by the mere fact of doing so, a mystical significance. It is a source of impurity and contamination, and its repercussions, visible and invisible, are incalculable. It must therefore be suppressed, its disastrous consequences must be suppressed, and things must be put right. Punishment is the mystical procedure that will effect this restitution. Consequently it matters very little on whom the punishments fall. The great thing is that they should be inflicted and that they should be proportionate to the crime. Thus there is an ‘institution of responsibility’. Moreover, it is easy to understand how the choice of the responsible subject comes to be made. The process takes place in virtue of a mechanism of transference which obeys the usual laws of psychological transference. First, there is an affective transference: the emotions aroused by the crime are carried over to everything that touches it from near or far. Then there is a judgment: the community decides that a given individual is responsible, and this judgment is dominated by relations of contiguity and resemblance. It follows, naturally, that the culprit himself, when he can be found, is held to represent the maximum of relationship with the crime. But failing this, anything that touches the crime must be punished. Thus responsibility descends from outside upon the culprit or any of his substitutes, and transforms them into scapegoats or instruments of social purification.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)