coromandal


suburbia plus dinosaurs
March 12, 2016, 2:26 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, unseen world | Tags: , , ,

Idealist 1 (believes in perfect society) > Realist < Idealist 2 (supports the status quo)

The realist, wedged between two types of idealist, believes things will change no matter what, either for the better, or for the worse. The true idealist believes there will be no change or that there can be perfection. The big surprise though, status quo is an idealist position because of the inevitability of change.

There are two kinds of starry-eyed idealist: those who believe in a perfect society; and those who hold that the future will be pretty much like the present. Wedged between them are the realists, who recognize that the future will be a lot different, though by no means necessarily better. To claim that human affairs might feasibly be much improved is a realist position; those with their heads truly in the clouds are the hard-nosed pragmatists who behave as though chocolate-chip cookies or the International Monetary Fund will still be with us in two thousand years time. Such a view is simply an inversion of the television cartoon The Flintstones, for which the remote past is just American suburbia plus dinosaurs.

Utopias I, Figures of Dissent, Terry Eagleton

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social order window dressing
August 15, 2015, 4:12 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , , ,

Capitalist modernity: instrumentalism, power, profit, material survival, management, manipulation, self interested calculation, private morality. Culture is for material production, decoration for the new material consumer social order, distraction during non work hours.

The pre capitalist modern world: fostering human sharing and solidarity, communal shaping of a common life. Culture is an extension of the aims of human solidarity and shared life.

Terry Eagleton’s description:

Capitalist modernity, so it appeared, had landed us with an economic system which was almost purely instrumental.  It was a way of life dedicated to power, profit, and the business of material survival, rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity.  The political realm was more a question of management and manipulation than of the communal shaping of a common life.  Reason itself had been debased to mere self-interested calculation.  As for morality, this too, had become an increasingly private affair, more relevant to the bedroom than the boardroom.  Cultural life had grown more important in one sense, burgeoning into a whole industry or branch of material production.  In another sense, however, it had dwindled to the window-dressing of a social order which had exceedingly little time for anything it could not price or measure.  Culture was now largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they were not working.

Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life



eeevil
March 28, 2015, 11:05 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

 So, why is evil so sexy?  And good so profoundly unglamorous?  Why does virtue seem so boring?

[2:42]  Regarding virtue:  the ancients believed the opposite to what we do.  They saw virtue as being very very good at the very very difficult task of living well.  We, on the other hand see virtue as having patience and honour and other hard to define, if not entirely wishy washy qualities. Regarding evil:  the ancients believed the wicked were particularly bad at the art of living.  We, on the other hand, see evil as a triumphant quality:

“I don’t think its virtue that’s boring, so much as a particular conception of it … Being a virtuous human being for Aristotle is a practice, like being a skilled diver or an accomplished tennis player.  And those who are really brilliant at being human, what Christians call the Saints, are the virtuosi of the moral sphere.  They’re the Pavarotti’s and George Best’s of virtue … In this very ancient Aristotelian view, virtue is a kind of prospering in the precarious affair of being human.  A prospering, if Sigmund Freud is to be believed, among others, none of us manages particularly well.  The wicked are those who haven’t developed the knack of fine living.  Those who botch the business as we all do to some degree.  Christians know this as original sin … We all botch the business, but the wicked do it in a spectacular dramatic sort of way.

[4:38]  The wicked are cripples; the virtuous are full of life:

So the wicked on this view, which later is elaborated by I suppose the greatest theologian who ever lived, Thomas Aquinas, the wicked are inept and crippled and deficient and really rather tedious people who never get the hang of human existence.  People who in a sense stay toddlers all the time.  They are like poor artists who can never really knock themselves into shape.  Whereas the virtuous, on this theory, are those who are like good artists … who realize their powers and energies and capacities to the full … The virtuous are those who are able to do this in as diverse and rich a way as possible, in this particular theory of morality.  And because of this they are brimming with life and high spirits.

[6:16]  God moral?   Nonsense!  Rather the very essence of delight and life, not to mention a good sense of humour:

Virtue is here a kind of energy or fullness of life, abundance of life … It’s a sort of exuberance which is why it’s thought sometimes, by some people to have something to do with God.  Because to say that God is good, traditionally, theologically, is not to say that he’s remarkably well behaved, that he eats his greens, polishes his shoes … But, in fact, most theologians these days wouldn’t think the term moral is applicable to God at all.  But rather to say he’s good is to say that he is an infinite abyss of self delighting life.  Which no doubt, I suppose must entail that he also has a boundless sense of humor.  He sure needs one.

[10:30]  defining evil

On this theory evil is not something positive.  It’s a kind of lack or defectiveness.  It’s a sort of nothingness or negativity.  It’s an inability to be truly alive.  It may look lively and sexy and seductive and flamboyant, but this is a flashy show it puts on to cover up the hollowness at its heart.  It’s the paper thinness of evil, it’s bitter unreality, its poor, botched parody of reality which is most striking about it.

[12:20]  the redefinition of virtue: no wonder people prefer vampires

As the middle classes came to exert their clammy grip on western civilization, one thing that happened was a gradual redefinition of virtue.  So virtue now came to mean not exuberance and self realization and self fulfillment as in the long tradition from Aristotle to Aquinas to Hegel to Marx in a so called virtue ethics tradition.  But it came to mean things like prudence, thrift, meekness, chastity, temperance, longheadedness, longsuffering, industriousness and so on.  No wonder people prefer vampires.

Terry Eagleton – On Evil from The School of Life on Vimeo.



identifying the monstrous
July 4, 2013, 4:06 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

We generally believe the enemy is ‘out there,’ and dispatch cowboys, armies, posses, swat teams, marines, boys in blue, nerdy scientists —  to get them.

There are lots of examples of blaming the other guy. Religion often emphasizes self perfecting: sanctification in Christianity, enlightenment in Buddhism; which surely lead to divergent paths and a divide across which we cast aspersions. The enemy isn’t us, it’s you lot.

But Pogo Possum- the cute little swamp creature from Okeefenokee – said, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

In his excerpt Terry Eagleton tells us that real relationships develop when there is a shared understanding that, like the elephant, the monster is in the room.

Here is Eagleton:

Tragedy is the form that recognizes that if a genuine human community is to be constituted, it can be only on the basis of our shared failure, frailty, and mortality. This is a community of repentance and forgiveness, and it represents everything that is the opposite of the American Dream. This means, in the terms of Jacques Lacan, that the symbolic can be founded only on the Real. Only by acknowledging the monstrous as lying at the very heart of ourselves, rather than projecting it outward onto others, can we establish anything more than a temporary, imaginary relationship with one another, one which is not likely to endure. This means relationships based on the recognition that at the very core of the self lies something profoundly strange to it, which is utterly impersonal and anonymous but closer to us than breathing, at once intimate and alien. This has had many names in Western civilization: God, Language, Desire, the Will, Language, the Unconscious, the Real, and so on.

Terry Eagleton, The Nature of Evil, Tikkun



in the name of imagination
October 20, 2011, 9:12 pm
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: , , , ,



replacing virtue
May 21, 2011, 10:06 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: ,

Our image of virtue is the Amish girl selling organic vegetables, the helper suburban wife, the social worker who cares, the religiously convicted, the saint who runs orphanages, the hardworking labourer, the dutiful husband, the family that saves, the company man, the disciplined mortgagor.

However, if you look in the dictionary, virtue is described quite differently.  It is a learned moral excellence, an exceptional person who has developed essential qualities needed to live an excellent life.  There’s an enormous difference between this definition and our own milquetoast, passive, whiny vision.

In this excerpt from T. Eagleton’s essay Ideas for modern living: virtue, the author describes this difference.  He says the proper definition of virtue is energy, exhuberance, prospering, exhiliration, and excitement.

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vital and indispensable

Take the L train from Union Square home to Brooklyn, or the 1 to the upper west side, or pretty well any train from where you work downtown to where ever you live, and look at the advertising.  It’s targeted to the rider demographic and it’s a sign of the times.  And times are rough:  people are going back to school to ride out the recession and to retool to position themselves better in a harsher market.   The subway cars are full of ads for colleges and universities.

The whole scene is a microcosm econosystem.  The car you’re in was designed to get workers to offices.  Ever notice how bad service is on the weekends and at night?  That’s because its prime purpose is to move workers back and forth from their offices.  The ads for education fine tune the purpose of the car:  in addition to getting you to work, the MTA will also help you find the degree program you need – and take you there to boot.  And after you’re successfully degreed it will, of course, take you back to work again.   One stop shopping.

Education is for money so you can enjoy purchasing a good life for yourself.  Or is it?

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