Posts tagged philosophy
the thing about philosophy is that it’s not supposed to be easy, if it’s easy it’s probably not busting open your mind the way it should be. & that’s not necessarily a fault in the text, if I devour an accessibly-written theory text in an evening and don’t discuss it with anyone I probably won’t remember it the next day, I certainly won’t have been ruminating over it for a month the way I will over something that’s hard. someone else might relate to the text differently. sometimes a text being difficult and slowing you down and making you reread every sentence is a virtue, it depends, it’s all about the reader
so that’s a thing, pushing yourself like that, it’s important
but a lot of the theory nerds nodding along to this will be white dudes who read almost exclusively white dudes, probably in english, probably from within their discipline and/or political lineage, and hang out mostly with people like them
and I mean honestly, you wanna talk about the merits of pushing yourself past your intellectual comfort zone, are you really gonna go there
Each people leaves some things unsaid in order to be able to say others. Because everything would be unsayable. From this follows the enormous difficulty of translation, which sets out to say in a language precisely what that language tends to remain silent about. But at the same time, it can be seen that translation can be a magnificent enterprise: to reveal the secrets that peoples and times keep from one another, and that contribute so much to their separation and hostility — in sum, an audacious integration of humanity. Ortega y Gasset (via Nick Evans’ Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have To Tell Us).
like I mean come the fuck on
this isn’t, like, illustrating an interesting point with an off-colour joke, this is his actual understanding of human interactions
I am embarrassed for him
why be happy when you can be interesting?
Slavoj Žižek, ‘Why Be Happy When You Can Be Interesting’ (2 min 11)
For example, let’s be serious, when you are in a creative endeavour - in that wonderful fever, my god, I’m onto something, so on - happiness doesn’t enter it. You’re ready to suffer.
This is the silliest and most pervasive cliché about creativity but it showed up on my Facebook feed today and it caught my attention because I’m feeling pretty much the opposite of this. I’m done with interesting and ready to be bored by happiness now, please, thanks.
Thinking further: Maybe the relationship between creativity on the y-axis and happiness-suffering on the x-axis is like a negative quadratic function (frown parabola), where creativity peaks with mid-range emotions. Total happiness flushes out creativity and total despair paralyses any endeavour. I’m not sure how to factor time and variety into this graph but they might be the most important factors, because if you’ve been feeling any one thing for long enough, eventually your mind stops responding to it creatively. The best writing about a feeling comes after the feeling.
In the midst of it there’s just the sensation, which is unintelligent and unintelligible. The sensations are all too similar - just a scattering of spaces inside the body in which you feel heat and pressure. For me all emotions are this: heat, pressure, being conscious of a space inside the body in a way that doesn’t make physical sense. Being haunted inside your body, by your own memory or imagination. Probably this doesn’t apply so much for other media and modes of creativity, and maybe not even for other people, but for me with words, when deep in a feeling, there’s just no point trying to tell it. What does it matter if anger sears through your spine or sits heavy under your lungs, dragging down your breath? I don’t know that anyone else’s psyche locates things in the same places; all I know is weight and pain in strange pockets of anatomy means nothing to read.
I’ve been kind of fragile and despondent lately and it makes it really difficult to do any kind of work. It’s like I’m all out of focus except for this hot blur of grief. I can’t concentrate, I can’t prioritise and I don’t have much capacity to deal with criticism or confrontation or failure, all of which seem essential for creative or political work and especially those projects at the intersection of the two, where everything is so tender and profound, so intimate and huge, and everyone seems to be angry at me about something I did or didn’t do, and there’s just so much shouting outside my face that’s pushing up against the noise in my head so the pressure sends cracks down through the lines. All my thoughts noise and contradiction. And if I try to stop there’s the kick of guilt because somewhere along the line I came to believe in this ethic of work and suffering, I came to see work as rent for living and then the payments spiralled out of control into several lifetimes, so in this one I’m just so damn tired. It’s a stupid way to think, and it makes me unhappy and uninteresting.
So basically I think Žižek is being an arse. I don’t know if happiness is the name of what I want either, though. Maybe I just miss the resilience I had for a little while, which made a lot more things possible. Everything got very tight and small all of a sudden. I feel very small and closed and unable. Something like the feeling you get in an aeroplane as it rises and the air starts to thin. You’re belted to your seat but the ground is falling away, and there’s a rush of noise and pressure, and then all you can hear is inside your own head. You’re supposed to be going somewhere, and you’ll know it when you get there, but in the meantime you’re locked in and all you can do is swallow and breathe.
I kind of want to go somewhere with what you’re saying about suffering and the body and debt, but I’m stuck on how that Žižek quote is actually the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard from a major philosopher. not the most offensive, although it is offensive, but definitely the most flat-out stupid. I’d hope that the context makes it slightly less stupid but I can’t be bothered checking it out because honestly, Žižek makes my skin crawl.
anyway, it’s true that sometimes creativity is about exploring a negative emotion, writing-in-your-diary style, something that’s plaguing you. that may not be pleasant, exactly, and sometimes it can make things worse, but you generally do it because you’re stewing and it would plague you regardless. I find a lot of joy, or at least relief, in creativity. I experience the more stable emotion of happiness or contentment when I have consistently laboured to achieve something. this idea that happiness is in conflict with achievement, creativity, that which is most vital in life — that is some serious angsty teen bullshit I would’ve pulled out when I was sixteen. I had never been more miserable; I have rarely been more bored and boring.
in fact… once, when I was a teen, my friend K and I were staying overnight at another friend’s house in an outer suburb. late that night, our other friend’s mother heard us talking through the wall and became convinced we were talking shit about her. she tried to kick us out, in the middle of the night, long after the buses had stopped, far from home. Worse things have happened but it wasn’t great. We froze up. her ten-year-old son, with the eerie calm of kids for whom this shit is normal, talked her down and we were allowed to stay. I tried to make light of the tension by remarking to K that at least it wasn’t boring. She thought about it, looked me in the eye and said, “actually, I think it’s extremely boring.”
I realised she was right. I’d been frightened, confused, unhappy — and also found the whole situation tedious. misery is grinding, it’s endless, the same shit keeps happening and you don’t know what to do about it. for both you and the people around you, unhappiness is dull.
(You, Lia, are always interesting, happy or unhappy, but I’d obviously rather see you happy. If your unhappiness is interfering with your writing — and I can’t imagine how it couldn’t — then that’s one more reason for the rest of us to regret it. )
existentialism sort of irks me.
why i am taking a course in it in the next few months?
One could almost say you’re taking the course… in bad faith
what a nauseating pun
can you change your enrolment or is there no exit?
ends and means/beginning as you mean to go on because that is how you will go on
my philosophical problem with utilitarianism is in the artificial separation it draws between ends and means (and realising that as a teenage animal liberationist is what got me into anarchist thought, if you were burning to know).
I am all about holding ourselves responsible for our inactions as well as our actions, and judging things by their effects rather than by your intentions if you could have known better, and Tough Unsentimental Pragmatic Choices in general — although let’s be real, Tough and Unsentimental is a very flattering and vague way to see yourself and if your ethical framework primarily advertises itself as Tough and Unsentimental you may have a problem with its actual substance.
for example: at some point as a utilitarian you have to be like “hmm given the society we live in, what are the effects of advocating that nondisabled adults stand in judgement over the quality of lives of disabled infants? what might the flow-on consequences be of judging that these lives are not worth living and that it is an act of kindness to end them? is this a group that really needs other people to have less sentimentality about the value of their lives?” (your answer has to be no or I can’t be friends with you, probably.)
similar issue with for example peter singer’s “the life you can save”, which is all about how you should theoretically donate your entire disposable income to Oxfam because if you hold on to it you’ll just be slightly happier but if you give it to Oxfam you might save lives.
which is true to an extent, but very short-term in its thinking. few people can maintain that kind of lifestyle, it makes working for social change fucking depressing and frames it as inherently in opposition to your quality of life, inherently a sacrifice. if you spend too much time around this kind of thinking you start to flip it around and think that the unhappier you are, the more you’re doing to save lives. I’ve seen people go really really crazy thinking like this. plus it advances no theory for how we can actually end world poverty, only how we can ameliorate it drib by drab if we are righteous enough to give up frivolity. yeah, that’s a great advertisement for a movement for the kind of profound social change we need. I’m against frivolous lifestyle activism too but come on, there’s a limit.
like, I judge the morality of actions almost entirely by their consequences, but I think many people and utilitarians specifically have an overly narrow idea of what “consequences” are. making people more generally callous is a consequence. making your movement seem like a punishment is a consequence. there is no such thing as a side effect; there’s just effects we planned for and effects we didn’t.
look, it’s just
whenever I read anything by or about Žižek I feel like I’m at some function where I’ve been seated next to a sixty-year-old dude who keeps talking at me about his job and trying to look down my shirt.
I’m not saying there’s not occasionally interesting things happening at his job but life’s too short not to swap seats.
THIS IS WHAT I WANT OUT OF SPECULATIVE REALISM/OOO. I guess I’m on team Bennett/Bryant then. The utter dismissal of constructivism and post-structuralism some of the other thinkers in this area (such as Harman) make just sacrifices too much. A lot of incredibly important political thinking has happened through those lenses for decades now, and to throw that out is a travesty— a baby with the bathwater sort of thing.