Friday, July 25, 2014

Clarifying Mid-Term Business

I've gotten some questions via e-mail, so I want to be as clear as possible for everybody. You have until 11:59:59 Sunday night, July 27th to post your first precis (or e-mail it to me to post for you) and have made at least half a dozen online comments. The precis is roughly a two page document, so you probably shouldn't think of it as a "paper" -- a fully fledged paper, even a short one, is a more comprehensive and systematic elaboration of a case or accounting of an object than the precis. Pick a passage, or a handful of details, say what the argument is in that passage or in those details, don't retreat into lame generalizations. The precis should raise a question, provide the point of departure for a deeper conversation -- but it isn't long enough to answer the question decisively or have the whole conversation. I hope this helps.

Docile Bodies

Here is another excerpt from Discipline and Punish for those of you who want to dig deeper.

Kafka, Before the Law, read by Orson Welles

"You Must Find Mister Guy Debord!"

Freud Fetishism Link Should Now Be Live

Thanks for letting me know about the problem in advance, and do let me know if more problems crop up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chiasmus in The Society of the Spectacle: Aphorism 12

"The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned. Its sole message is: 'What appears is good; what is good appears.'"

Debord is reflecting and building upon an idea similar to Barthes' myth, where the spectacle de-politicizes the world and makes us mistake history for nature. By saying that "what appears is good", the spectacle makes us not question the validity and efficacy of the spectacle itself. Then, by asserting that "what is good appears", the spectacle removes any other possibilities for life outside of the status quo. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Précis on Excerpts From Naomi Klein’s No Logo

What drew me to Klein’s writing was, originally, the requirement that we read it for this course. Joking aside, I enjoyed reading “Taking on the Brand Bullies” and “Patriarchy Gets Funky” from Naomi Klein’s No Logo not only because of their simplicity (for they are MUCH more straightforward and easy to understand than the other readings we have had, as you can already tell from the chapter titles), but also their relative lack of argumentative bias. While she does make an argument, the wealth of objective and subjective information she uses (through statistical data as well as interviews with key leaders in the brand industry) adds a measure of scientificity (ooh I do already love that word) to her argument, which I feel the others have lacked.

As the two chapters we read contain two very different, but interconnected, arguments and narratives, we will deal with them separately. First, we will discuss “Taking on the Brand Bullies”. In this section, Klein analyzes the history of the brand, and how “in ways both insidious and overt, this corporate obsession with brand identity is waging a war on public and individual space”. After she presents the thesis of her piece, Klein then goes on to define some important terms. She says that while advertising and brands are often confused with one another, they have different meanings. The advertisement is only one tool used by the corporation to create its brand, which Klein defines as the “core meaning of the modern corporation”. A brand defines the corporation as if it were a person, with a personality and an influence on the culture and life of individuals which goes further than the products which they produce. In essence, corporations become something they are not, they become fetishized and anthropomorphised. However, before Klein engages in her argument proper, she explains the history of the brand.

From the 1850s on, the mass-marketing campaign has been an integral part of our world. Coming out of the necessity to promote newly invented goods into peoples’ lives, the advertising industry at first demonstrated how a certain product would make ones life better. As the age of mechanical reproducibility developed, this idea changed. Now, hundreds of companies can make generally the same product. To counter this, large corporations have had to shift away from catering to the rational, life-promoting thoughts of consumers and, instead, companies create identities that surround the products and indeed the atmosphere of the company itself which appeal to individuals’ baser, emotional instincts. Large, established companies’ products are given value with a falsely imbued historicity; the brand provides the thought that purchasing a product which is the same as the one next to it somehow brings the consumer closer to the values of the company brand. With this also comes less of an emphasis on the actual production of the product, and more on the development of an ethereal “soul” of a corporation, even further alienating workers (who are now usually halfway around the world) on a production line from the end product.

Like many of our authors, Klein’s work both adheres to and departs from the traditional Marxian paradigm. On the one hand, Klein argues against the commodity price form, in which companies mark up products not based on the actual usefulness or cost of creating the product, but instead on the supposed lifestyle which a product or group of products bestows upon the customer. At the same time, Klein moves away from the notion that production, or occupation, defines an individual. Instead, she looks to the same idea which Guy Debord employs in his Society of the Spectacle; Debord and Klein say that what one has makes that individual, and, most importantly the appearance (read, brand) of the commodities which the individual consumes. While Marx claimed that putting a price on a product drained it of its historicity, the opposite is now true, where products are imbued with a telling of the history of that product, often devoid of the mention of any price until the moment of purchase.

The second part of our reading was “Patriarchy Gets Funky”. This section focuses on how the brand industry described above embraced liberal youth movements in order to market to that growing sector of the market. It was described best by music writer Arm Powers, who said of the Girl Power movement that “what’s springing up is not a revolution but a mall”. Klein concludes that while, in some ways, this leveraging of diversity made concrete steps forward, it is usually a fake, imagined kind of diversity which only goes so far as to make sure that the corporation makes a brand image which generates profit using “carnival-esque imagery”. In the end, Klein concludes that this tactic only serves to perpetuate the harmful capitalism which breeds the negative media images that youths were fighting against in the first place. Just as Oscar Wilde found in The Soul of Man Under Socialism that “the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it”, Klein discovers that the fight against capitalism ended up saving it.

While I wasn’t alive to experience the 90s, which is the era Klein examines, I know that advertising today does not have the qualities she describes. While some companies do indeed use a few marketing stunts or campaigns to show that company's devotion to gay rights or some other relevant social movement, most methods of promoting a company brand seem rather conservative. I still see unfair representation of minorities (or no minority representation at all) and sexualized images of women plastered everywhere. So even if there was this watershed of supposed company brand awareness in the 1990s, it has since been discarded as companies realize that they don’t necessarily need to engage with the younger generation.

Précis on Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel telling the story about the corruption of a beautiful young man. In the novel, Dorian’s face remains young and beautiful, but his heart becomes devil day by day. The novel was criticized as an insult to the public morality. The preface was written by Wilde when the second version was published to defend himself.
On my view, the gist of the preface is that an artist is to create beautiful things and he shoulders no moral responsibilities. In this preface, there are five important perspectives of the discussion: art, artist, spectator, life and society. He uses a lot of paradox and metaphor.
We will see how Wilde clarifies the relations of one another and directs the readers to a deeper view.
The artist is the creator of beautiful things.” The first sentence defines the job of an artist.
Then, Wilde stresses the importance of art revealing itself and concealing the artist. Why should artist be concealed? Let us continue.
Wilde then talks about the critic, pointing out that autobiography is the best and worst form of criticism. What a typical paradox of Wilde! In translating the impression of beautiful things, there is no doubt that autobiography is a very direct and vivid way of expressing. However, it is “the worst” as well. Why the worst? A natural guess can be that it introduces the author through the process of exposing the author in front of all the audience. Even only in aspect of art, it is difficult for an autobiography to remain honest with the observation of the audience. There must be something, a strong power, to change the original things thus to produce a “better” image. This power is so strong and so inevitable that it brings the “best form” straight down to the “worst”. What is the power? Again, Wilde throws out a question without giving a straight answer—but there will be one.
He goes on to say that those who see ugly meanings in beautiful things are wrong, and the people who see beautiful meanings in beautiful things are cultivated. These blessed people know they should treat beauty as a pure thing, and their should not be anything else to look for other than beauty, indicating that the finding of anything else is to some extent misunderstanding of the artist’s intention. A book should not be judged by measurement of moral rules, but by criteria of art, in that art is the creation of beautiful things. If we go back to the question of why autobiography is the worst form of criticism, we may find it possible to explain by the moral restrictions—as long as the artist need to grant the character a real identity in true life, he/she cannot be free from the moral expectations of the day. This is the dilemma of an autobiography, and it cannot be avoided because it writes about the author him/herself. Any person of the society is responsible for the words he/she says, and the things he/she does. It is not hard to imagine that autography becomes a thing that is pushed by moral power, thus causing the reservation of the real intentions of it. Origin ideas becomes concealed and this probably undermines the true value of the writing.
After concentrating on art, artist and spectator, Wilde begans to call for attention to life and society.
Wilde uses metaphor to compare the society of the 19th century to Caliban, and thus compare the rage of the public to the rage of Caliban. Like Caliban, the public of 19th century is angry no matter he sees himself or not. When he sees himself, he is angry at the ugliness, but when he does not, he is angry for not seeing himself. The reason why the rage can never be quenched is that either the society or the Caliban is scarred with something dirty and evil itself. The only way to satisfy this impossible need is to let him see a beautiful look which is a true one as well. Sadly, this can never be done. Now that it is the fault of Caliban, and the fault of 19th century, it is reasonable that a piece of art cannot live up to both of the two expectations. The Romantic chooses beauty, and picks a way of anything but true description of life.
It is unlikely for any reader to miss the expression of “the subject-matter of the artist” and “the morality of art”. The moral of life has become merely materials in an artist’s eye and moreover, the morality of art is free from the bandage of social behaviors. Thus an artist should be out of all of this. Art is bigger and higher, that is why Wilde says: “Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.” By comparing the forms to what a musician does and the feelings to what an actor does, Wilde explained a deeper relationship between the art and the artist, the art and life: the artist gives his energy to seek and create, but the art is both separated from the artist him/herself and separated from the true life. Till now, Wilde tries to make the readers believe that free as an outsider of life is the ideal state of artist.
 “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.” “All art is quite useless.” Putting the two sentences together, we may find out the potential idea: an artist should be forgiven for create art, which is useless and admired. Furthermore, the art is not moral instrument, but just to be admired because of the beauty in itself. Thus to complete what an artist should do.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Précis # 1 – The Ancients and the Moderns

In a moment of reflection, a friend once asked: “Isn’t it disheartening to realize how little you knew a year ago, a month ago, or yesterday for that matter? And to now realize how much more there is to know?” I was reminded of this conversation upon reading “Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns” by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle and learning of Fontenelle’s fascination for the topic. This is a concept that both infuriates and soothes depending on how it is perceived—and one that is quite common in many philosophers’ writings.
In “Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns,” Fontenelle argues that the assumed superiority of the ancient philosophers over the modern philosophers is a flawed assumption. Because humans have the power to learn from past notions and ideas, modern-day philosophers must revise and re-imagine those past ideas in order to prove themselves superior. Despite the seemingly prejudiced tone in parts of his essay, Fontenelle states the ancients and moderns are perfectly equal in intellectual capacity, though it is the responsibility of the moderns to continue the progression of evolving thought. In fact, the only way the moderns could be proven inferior to the ancients is if human thought stagnated to a point of monotony and bleakness.  In the words of Fontenelle, “being enlightened by the ideas of the Ancients, and by their errors, we might be expected to surpass them. If we only equaled them, we would have to be far inferior to them by nature.”
Since we are supposedly better than those societies before us, it is safe to presume that later societies will also be better and more advanced than our current society. But instead of viewing this as a discouraging thought, other philosophers have shown us that this succession of intellectual advancement is entirely natural. Just as it is expected for our society to surpass the developments made by past societies, it should be expected for later societies to surpass the developments of our society. Socrates represents this in his acclaimed quote: “I am better off than he is—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know.” It can be uncomfortable to think about being at peace with the limitations on one’s knowledge, but it should really be welcomed as a sign of an ever-evolving, ever-advancing human society.
According to Fontenelle, the moderns will most always be superior to the ancients because the ancient’s intellectual developments can be built upon and revised. This ideology can be expanded by Socrates’s well-known belief that no person can hold all the knowledge in the world, and that the person who knows the limits of his knowledge can be considered wise. Fontenelle also asserts that if people were to stop using the achievements of the past to produce modern achievements, “we would barely be men in comparison.” Human nature has a purpose to continue the progress of intellectual thought, as opposed to stagnating within a monotonous period of intellectual thought. At an individual level, it could then be considered a great accomplishment to look back upon one’s younger self and think: what ignorance.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

from The Gay Science

124 In the Horizon of the Infinite.

We have left the land and have gone aboard ship! We have broken down the bridge behind us - nay, more, the land behind us! Well, little ship! look out! Beside thee is the ocean; it is true it does not always roar, and sometimes it spreads out like silk and gold and a gentle reverie. But times will come when thou wilt feel that it is infinite, and that there is nothing more frightful than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt itself free, and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Alas, if homesickness for the land should attack thee, as if there had been more freedom there - and there is no "land" any longer!

125 The Madman.

Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? - the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? - for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife - who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event - and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!" Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. "I come too early," e then said. "I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling - it has not yet reached men's ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star - and yet they have done it themselves!" It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: "What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?"

143. The greatest advantage of polytheism

For an individual to posit his own ideal and to derive from it his own law, joys, and rights—that may well have been considered hitherto as the most outrageous human aberration and as idolatry itself. The few who dared as much always felt the need to apologize to themselves, usually by saying: "It wasn't I! Not I! But a god through me!" The wonderful art and gift of creating gods — polytheism — was the medium through which this impulse could discharge, purifiy, perfect, and ennoble itself; for originally it was a very undistinguished impulse, related to stubbornness, disobedience and envy. Hostility against this impulse to have an ideal of one's own was formerly the central law of all morality. There was only one norm, man; and every people thought that it possessed this one ultimate norm. But above and outside, in some distant overworld, one was permitted to behold a plurality of norms; one god was not considered a denial of another god, nor blasphemy against him. It was here that the luxury of individuals was first permitted; it was here that one first honored the rights of individuals. The invention of gods, heroes, and overmen of all kinds, as well as near-men and undermen, of dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons, and devils was the inestimable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual: the freedom that one conceded to a god in his relation to other gods—one eventually also granted to oneself in relation to laws, customs, and neighbors.

Monotheism, on the other hand, this rigid consequence of the doctrine of one normal human type— the faith in one normal human god beside whom there are only pseudo-gods—was perhaps the greatest danger that has yet confronted humanity. It threatened us with the premature stagnation that, as far as we can see, most other species have long reached; for all of them believe in one normal type and ideal for their species, and they have translated the morality of mores definitively into their own flesh and blood. In polytheism the free-spiriting and many-spiriting of man obtained its first preliminary form—the strength to create for ourselves our own new eyes—and ever again new eyes that are even more are own: hence man alone among all the animals has no eternal horizons and perspectives.

290 One Thing is Needful.

To "give style" to one's character-that is a grand and a rare art! He who surveys all that his nature presents in its strength and in its weakness, and then fashions it into an ingenious plan, until everything appears artistic and rational, and even the weaknesses enchant the eye-exercises that admirable art. Here there has been a great amount of second nature added, there a portion of first nature has been taken away-in both cases with long exercise and daily labor at the task. Here the ugly, which does not permit of being taken away, has been concealed, there it has been re-interpreted into the sublime. Much of the vague, which refuses to take form, has been reserved and utilized for the perspectives-it is meant to give a hint of the remote and immeasurable. In the end, I when the work has been completed, it is revealed how it was the constraint of the same taste that organized and fashioned it in whole and in part: whether the taste was good or bad is of less importance than one thinks-it is sufficient that it was a taste!It will be the strong imperious I natures which experience their most refined joy in such constraint, in such confinement and perfection under their own law; the passion of their I violent volition lessens at the sight of all disciplined nature, all conquered and ministering nature: even when they have pa laces to build and gardens to lay out, it is not to their taste to allow nature to be free. It is the reverse with weak characters who have not power over themselves, and hate the restriction of style: they feel that if this repugnant constraint were laid upon them, they would necessarily become vulgarized under it: they become slaves as soon as they serve, they hate service. Such intellects-they may be intellects of the first rank-are always concerned with fashioning and interpreting themselves and their surroundings as free nature-wild, arbitrary, fantastic, confused and surprising: and it is well for them to do so, because only in this manner can they please themselves! For one thing is needful: namely, that man should attain to satisfaction with himself-be it but through this or that fable and artifice: it is only then that man's aspect is at all endurable! He who is dissatisfied with himself is ever ready to avenge himself on that account: we others will be his victims, if only in having always to endure his ugly aspect. For the aspect of the ugly makes one mean and sad.

341 The Greatest Burden.

What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: "This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence-and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!"- Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: "Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine! "If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything: "Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favorably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?

"There Is No Royal Road to Science"

Karl Marx
1872 PREFACE TO THE FRENCH EDITION of Capital Volume One

To the citizen Maurice Lachâtre

Dear Citizen,

I applaud your idea of publishing the translation of “Das Kapital” as a serial. In this form the book will be more accessible to the working class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.

That is the good side of your suggestion, but here is the reverse of the medal: the method of analysis which I have employed, and which had not previously been applied to economic subjects, makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous, and it is to be feared that the French public, always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connexion between general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions, may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once.

That is a disadvantage I am powerless to overcome, unless it be by forewarning and forearming those readers who zealously seek the truth. There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Believe me, dear citizen, Your devoted,
Karl Marx
London, March 18, 1872

Marx As the "Darwin of History"

In his 1888 Preface to The Communist Manifesto, Frederick Engels attributes to Marx a “proposition which, in my opinion, is destined to do for history what Darwin’s theory has done for biology[.]” This proposition is as follows:
[I]n every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiters and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class -– the proletariat –- cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class –- the bourgeoisie -– without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions and class struggles.

Précis on "Why I am so Clever" by Friedrich Nietzsche

The institution of monotheistic religion, specifically Christianity, has been a centerpiece of western civilization for the past two millennia. The consequences of institutionalized Christianity are discussed within one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s essays in Ecce Homo, titled “Why I am so Clever.” Enshrined within the essay is the argument that monotheistic religion originates from ressentiment, as the value systems of said religions are created in response to the sources of early man’s intellectual frustration, such as questions of the origin of life and the creation of the universe, as well as the origins of human suffering. This fetishistic ressentimentality, Nietzsche argues, is an insult to the capacity of human intelligence and serves to stifle intellectual advancement, and Nietzsche communicates this to his audience through his use of irony, allusion and metaphor.

Christianity answers some of the most complicated questions dogging the scientists and intellectuals of today in simple, and absolutist ways. Nietzsche rallies against the absolutism of Monotheism and Christianity specifically through his use of irony and allusion. Nietzsche argues that “God is such an obvious and crass solution… He is really nothing but a coarse commandment against us: ye shall not think! . . . I am much more interested in another questions with the ‘Salvation of humanity’ depends much more than upon any piece of theological curiosity: the question of nutrition.” Nietzsche uses allusion and irony simultaneously when he alludes to the Ten Commandments in illuminating how the idea of God relegates humanity into a position of unthinking with the commandment “Ye shall not think” followed by ironically declaring that the topic of nutrition is more essential to the “Salvation of humanity” than is theology. The allusion links the “God” in question to Christianity in the reader’s mind, then associates the ressentiment of Christianity insinuated by the commandment "ye shall not think" upon critical thought. The ironic statement following immediately after then undermines the authority that the reader associates with the institutionalized behemoth of Christianity. As a result, Nietzsche disarms his reader’s preconceptions and makes them more receptive to his argument, a necessary step as Nietzsche’s target audience is one that has not previously considered the stifling effects and ressentiment of monotheism, and perhaps even prescribes to the beliefs of a monotheistic religion.

Nietzsche, following the disarmament of his reader's potential conditions of rebuttal, then launches into a metaphor later in the essay that challenges his reader's preconceptions. Nietzsche asserts that “All the things men have valued with such earnestness heretofore are not even realities; they are mere fantasies, or, more strictly speaking, lies arising from the evil instincts of diseased and, in the deepest sense, harmful natures-all the concepts, ‘God,’ ‘soul,’ ‘virtue,’ sin,’ ‘Beyond,’ ‘truth,’ ‘eternal life.’” Nietzsche’s metaphor occurs when he compares “all the things men have valued” to “mere fantasies,” and later reveals that the values he refers to are all concepts referring to the supernatural and monotheistic. This metaphor which challenges the long-held beliefs and assumptions of his Judeo-Christian audience, without the disarming use of allusion and irony earlier in the essay, would normally cause the reader to disregard Nietzsche’s argument explicated immediately following the metaphor, that “All questions of politics, of the social order, of education, have been falsified from top to bottom, because… people were taught to despise the "details," more properly, the fundamentals of life.” Nietzsche’s essential argument is that monotheistic religion has stifled scientific discovery through ressentiment by discouraging curiosity and instead offering the cookie-cutter explination that all natural phenomena is the work of God.

Nietzsche’s argument in “Why I am so clever” is similar to the one made by the “death of god” in his earlier work The Gay Science, that the death of the monotheistic god results in the birth of a pagan polytheistic pantheon of infinitely many gods and goddesses affording an infinite amount of possibilities for the universe. In an interpretation that is more useful to modern-day readers of Nietzsche’s work, the “death of god” opens humanity to rejecting the ressentimentality of Christianity and all religions through their dissolution into mythology, thus opening humanity up to the infinitely many scientific possibilities regarding the nature of life and the universe which hitherto have been stifled by belief in God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Karl Marx-The Fetishism of Commodities...

The moment humanity placed a value on commodities (products) begin our society of consumerism. Man is no longer worth the person he is, but what he can produce. Society has lost all relations, "intercourse" with one another, only having contact with humanity through materials. "The product must be not only useful, but useful for others."The product produced by the producer requires a social need, yet one become a social outcast because he is of no use to the community. No matter how many hours are spent producing the product, its value is only determined by social need , and not commodity quality. "The determination of the magnitude of value by labour time is therefore a secret." One does not need you to know that they make a product twice as fast, and want twice as much of your product for their merchandise. Value becomes the product, not the person, and society is being ruled by products instead of man having absolute power of commodities. In the coarse of commodities humanity has lost sight of what true value is, the Nature behind the object. Society only sees the need in the product, but does not value the materials used to produce, or the mode in which the maker gathered material; most importantly the maker themselves. Material is only as valuable as man/woman makes them; gold has no more use than iron if one so deems. There is no formula to determine how valuable an object is, only ones need, and if production is not socially needed, then the person becomes invaluable to society. Consumerist do not value the man behind the mask and would let machine run society in order to have zero contact with humanity. Commodity fetishism is consuming the public, people are obsessed with the latest production, yet hold no value to the hours slaved in production.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Our Syllabus

Rhetoric 20:
The Rhetoric of Interpretation:

Who Holds the Keys?

Instructor: Dale Carrico,,
Course Blog:
Session D, July 7-August 14, TWR, 4-6.30pm, 160 Dwinelle

Attendance/Participation/In-Class Work, 10%; Reading Notebook, 25%; Two Precises, 25%; Twelve+ Comments, 10%; Final Paper, 30%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)

Course Description:

To survey contemporary critical theory is to ask the question, "Who Holds the Keys?" Who are the ones who know how to decipher inscrutable texts, expose longstanding deceptions, illuminate complex social formations, unlock intractable histories? But when we ask just what it is to know these things, and how we know them, and how we know who knows them, we come to realize that our initial question contains within it troubling answers to other sorts of questions, questions about what we think it means to be a "who" and not a "what" in the first place. “Interpretation” derives from the Latin interpretatio, a term freighted with the sense not only of explication and explanation, but also translation. What are the vocabularies and conventions that govern intelligible acts of interpretation, translation, argumentation? What are the conventions through which we constitute the proper objects of interpretation? Who are the subjects empowered to offer up interpretations that compel our attention and change our convictions? Who holds these translation keys?

We will discover that for many of our conversational partners in these investigations, our questions will turn out to turn, astonishingly enough, on various construals of the phenomenon of the fetish. We will discover early that theories of the fetish define the turn of the three threshold figures of critical theory from philosophy to post-philosophical discourse: Marx, Freud, Nietzsche (commodity, sexuality, ressentimentality). Fetishism recurs deliriously thereafter in contemporary critical accounts, feminist, queer, anti-racist, post-colonial, technoscientific, and we will survey many of these. Fetishism may be indispensable to the constitution of the social, the adjudications of the cultural and subcultural, and to representational practices both artistic and political. Is the devotion of the critical to the separation of facts from fancies itself fetishistic? Is fetishism a kind of figurative language, an anti-figurative mode, or a perverse kind of literalization? What are we to make of the way distinctions between fetishism, figuration, and fact can themselves always be drawn fetishistically, figuratively, and factually? All of the readings will be available either online or in a course reader. Where we end up together will, of course, be very much a matter open to interpretation.

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

July 9 -- Introductions
July 10 -- Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns;
Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism; Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray; Phrases and Philosophies for the Instruction of the Young; Wilde on Trial
July 11 -- Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extramoral Sense; and a few selections from The Gay Science;
Ecce Homo: Preface -- Why I Am So Wise -- Why I Am So Clever -- Why I Am a Destiny (or Fatality)

Week Two

July 16 -– Marx and Engles, Theses on Feuerbach
Marx on Idealism and Materialism
Marx on The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof from Capital
July 17 -- Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility and On Photography
Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry
Adorno, The Culture Industry Reconsidered
July 18 -- Roland Barthes, Mythologies
Daniel Harris, The Futuristic

Week Three

July 23 -- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Naomi Klein, Taking On the Brand Bullies, Patriarchy Gets Funky from No Logo
July 24 –- Franz Kafka, Give It Up!
Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses
Hannah Arendt, The Gap Between Past and Future
July 25 -- Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish, Introduction, Docile Bodies, Panoptism Foucault, from The History of Sexuality, Volume One: We Other Victorians, on Power; Right of Death and Power over Life; Governmentality

Week Four

July 30 –- John Carpenter (dir.), "They Live," In-Class Screening and Discussion
July 31 -- Sigmund Freud, Fetishism
Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
Kobena Mercer, On Mapplethorpe
Aug 1 -– Frantz Fanon, Selections from Black Skin, White Masks and "Concerning Violence"
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence

Week Five

Aug 6 -- William Burroughs, "Coincidence" and Immortality
Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto
Aug 7 -- Judith Butler, Introduction and Chapter One from Undoing Gender
Carol Adams, Preface and On Beastliness and Solidarity
Aug 8 -- Thesis Workshop

Week Six

Aug 13 -- Hannah Arendt, The Conquest of Space
CS Lewis Abolition of Man (you need only read Chapter One)
Slavoj Zizek, Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket!
Aug 14 -- David Harvey Fetishism of Technology
Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs
Bruno Latour, A Plea for Earthly Science
Aug 15 Bruno Latour, To Ecologize or Modernize? That Is the Question
Gayatri Spivak on Planetarity -- Second Essay Due (5-6pp.)

Course Objectives:

Is anything ever not a text? Is anyone ever not interpreting?

Contextualizing Contemporary Critical Theory: The inaugural Platonic repudiation of rhetoric and poetry, Vita Activa/Vita Contemplativa, Marx's last Thesis on Feuerbach, Kantian Critique, the Frankfurt School, Exegetical and Hermeneutic Traditions, Literary and Cultural Theory from the Restoration period through New Criticism, the Birmingham School, from Philosophy to Post-Philosophy: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud; the postwar biopolitical turn in Arendt, Fanon, and Foucault; and the emerging post-colonial, post-international, post-global planetarity of theory in an epoch of digital networked media formations and anthropogenic climate catastrophe.

Survey of Key Themes in Critical Theory: Aura, Critique, Culture Industry, Discourse, Equity-in-Diversity, Fact/Value, Fetish, Figurality, Humanism/Post-Humanism, Ideology, Interpretation, Judgment, Neoliberalism, Post-Colonialism, Scientificity, Sociality, Spectacle, Textuality.

Survey of Key Critical/Interpretative Methodologies: Critique of Ideology, Marxism/Post-Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, Science and Technology Studies.

Connecting theoria and poiesis: thinking and acting, theory and practice, creative expressivity as aesthetic judgment and critical theory as poetic refiguration, etc.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Syllabus for Rhetoric 20: "Who Holds the Keys?"

Rhetoric 20:
The Rhetoric of Interpretation:

Who Holds the Keys?

Instructor: Dale Carrico,,
Course Blog:
Session D, July 9-August 15, TWR, 2-4.30pm, 141 McCone

Reading Notebook, 30%; Precis, 10%; Mid-Term, 30%; Final, 30%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

July 9 -- Introductions
July 10 -- Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism; Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray; Phrases and Philosophies for the Instruction of the Young; Wilde on Trial
July 11 -- Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extramoral Sense
Selections from Gay Science
How the "True World" Finally Became A Fable
Ecce Homo: Preface -- Why I Am So Wise -- Why I Am So Clever -- Why I Am a Destiny (or Fatality)

Week Two

July 16 -– Marx and Engles, Theses on Feuerbach
Marx on Idealism and Materialism
Marx on The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof from Capital
July 17 -- Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility
Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry
Adorno, The Culture Industry Reconsidered
July 18 -- Roland Barthes, Mythologies
Daniel Harris, The Futuristic

Week Three

July 23 -- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Naomi Klein, Taking On the Brand Bullies, Patriarchy Gets Funky from No Logo
July 24 –- Frantz Kafka, Give It Up!
Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses
Hannah Arendt, The Gap Between Past and Future
July 25 -- Thesis Workshop

Week Four

July 30 –- John Carpenter (dir.), "They Live," In-Class Screening -- First Essay Due (5-6pp.)
July 31 -- Sigmund Freud, Fetishism
Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
Kobena Mercer, On Mapplethorpe
Aug 1 -– Frantz Fanon, Selections from Black Skin, White Masks
Paul Gilroy, Race and the Right to be Human
Gayatri Spivak, Translation As Culture

Week Five

Aug 6 -- William Burroughs, "Coincidence" and Immortality
Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto
Aug 7 -- Judith Butler, Introduction and Chapter One from Undoing Gender
Carol Adams, Preface and On Beastliness and Solidarity
Aug 8 -- Thesis Workshop and then David Harvey Fetishism of Technology

Week Six

Aug 13 -- Hannah Arendt, The Conquest of Space
CS Lewis Abolition of Man (you need only read Chapter One)
Slavoj Zizek, Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket!
Aug 14 -- Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs
Bruno Latour, A Plea for Earthly Science
Aug 15 Bruno Latour, Making Things Public -- Second Essay Due (5-6pp.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Syllabus for Rhetoric 121: "The Rhetoric of Narrative Selfhood in the Graphic Novel"

Summer Session A, 2011
University of California at Berkeley
Department of Rhetoric

Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday 4.30-7 100 Wheeler May 23-July 1

Dale Carrico

Course Blog:

Attendance/Participation: 30%; 2-4pp. Presentation: 30%; Final 7-10pp. Paper 40%

Course Description

In this course we will survey rhetorical gestures -- logical, topical, and tropological -- through which a selfhood whose substance is construed as narrative is variously conjured up and deployed in a host of (mostly) contemporary graphic serial textual forms from Trajan's great stone self-promotional column to the scattered photographs of the deceased Didier Lefevre organized and supplemented between the covers of "The Photographer." What passes for selfhood -- from the records of notorious historical figures to traces from anonymous everyday citizens, from the voices of reporters and storytellers, from politicians on a mass mediated campaign trail to the ethos of a whole socioeconomic class at a particular historical juncture, to a "living" political document, among many other subjects -- and what matters in and about these selves varies enormously across the range of these works of graphic biography and autobiography, imaginary memoir, advocacy journalism, adapted ethnography and media transcripts we are reading, as well as in a couple of film adaptations we'll watch together. We will devote attention to writings by artists Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, Alan Moore, and Art Spiegelman on both the theory and practice of storytelling and characterization in graphic novelization, but the center of gravity for our conversations will remain our shared and intensive engagements with these extraordinary works over our weeks together. By the end you'll have a story to tell about selves for yourselves.
Our reading list is long and, I fear, dauntingly expensive. I will make a copy of every piece we are reading together available on reserve in the Rhetoric library, and I hope that at least some of us can arrange to trade and share copies as a community to defray some of these costs. Those of you who buy all of the required texts may find you have accidentally embarked on a new and ruinously costly obsession: my apologies. These works will be supplemented by practical and theoretical essays collected in a brief reader
Required Texts

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman, 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
Howard Cruse, Stuck Rubber Baby
Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, Frederic Lemercier, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders
Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell, The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
Sabrina Jones, Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography
Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (film adaptation of Miyazaki's own graphic series)
Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, vol. one
Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack, Our Cancer Year
Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle, Studs Terkel, Working: A Graphic Adaptation
Joe Sacco, Palestine
Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, writers and directors, Persepolis (film adaptation of Satrapi's Graphic Novels)
J.P. Stassen, Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Good-Bye
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Provisional Schedule of Meetings


Week One
24 Administrivial Introductions
25 Personal Introductions
26 Barefoot Gen

Week Two
31 Good-Bye


1 Deogratias
2 Our Cancer Year

Week Three
7 Persepolis
8 Fun Home
9 American Born Chinese

Week Four
14 Stuck Rubber Baby
15 Palestine
16 The Photographer

Week Five
21 Isadora Duncan
22 The United States Constitution
23 '08

Week Six
28 Working
29 Nausicaa
30 Concluding Remarks and Bacchanal

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Syllabus for Rhetoric 103B: Aesthetics and Politics

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-5, 126 Barrows
Instructor: Dale Carrico (
Leading Discussion: James Harker, Amy Jamgochian
Course Blog:

Just which objects are art and what are art’s objects and how do arts voice objection? Over the course of the term we will think through the conversation, antagonism, and co-construction of the aesthetic and the political, especially as these have played out in some characteristic Marxist and postmarxist discourses.

Grade Breakdown:

In-Class Mid-Term Examination: 25%
Short Paper: 25%
Take-Home Final Examination: 25%
Attendance/Participation: 25%

A Provisional Schedule of Meetings


T 16 Introduction (Syllabus/Course Policies)
R 18 Introduction (Some Course Themes)

T 23 Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism"
R 25 Marx and Engles: From The German Ideology and Capital, Alienation, Camera-Obscura, Commodity Fetishism

T 30 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle


R 1 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

T 6 Klein, No Logo
R 8 Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

T 13 Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, Ernst Bloch, "Discussing Expressionism," pp. 16-27; Georg Lukacs, "Realism in the Balance," pp. 27-59.
R 15 Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, Bertolt Brecht, "Against Lukacs," pp. 68-85, Walter Benjamin "Conversations with Brecht," pp. 86-99.

T 20 Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, Correspondence from Adorno to Benjamin, pp. 110-133; Benjamin Replies, pp. 134-141.
R 22 Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, Adorno, "Commitment," pp. 177-195.

T 27 Simon Frith, "Art Ideology and Pop Practice"


R 1 Iain Chambers, "Contamination, Coincidence, and Collusion: Pop Music, Urban Culture, and the Avant-Garde"
T 6 Terry Eagleton, "The Critic as Clown"
R 8 Michele Barrett, "The Place of Aesthetics in Marxist Criticism"

T 13 V for Vendetta (in-class screening)
R 15 V for Vendetta (in-class screening)

T 20 Discussion of Film
R 22 In-Class Midterm



T3 Bruce Sterling, Distraction [ISBN: 0553576399]
R5 Bruce Sterling, Distraction

T10 Bruce Sterling, Distraction
R12 Jeanette Winterson, "Art Objects"
Short Paper (4-5pp.) Due

T17 Bill Brown, "Thing Theory"
R19 Jessica Riskin, "The Defecating Duck. or, the Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life"

T24 Charity Scribner, "Object, Relic, Fetish, Thing: Joseph Beuys and the Museum"
R26 Rey Chow, "Fateful Attachments: On Collecting, Fidelity, and Lao She"


T1 Jacques Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics, pp. [9]-41.
R3 Jacques Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics, pp. [42]-66.

T8 Final Comments, Turn in Take-Home Final

Monday, August 28, 2006

Syllabus for Rhetoric 121A, Fall 2006

Rhetoric 121A
Rhetoric of Fiction
“Biopunk and the Bioethical Imaginary”

Fall 2006

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 5.00-6.30, 242 Dwinelle Hall
Instructor: Dale Carrico,;
Office Hours: Before and after class and by appointment. 7404 Dwinelle Hall
Course Blog:

Course Description

"Biopunk" is a fledgling genre of speculative fiction taking up many of the characteristic themes and gestures of cyberpunk literature but reinvigorating them through a focus on the emerging pleasures and dangers of genetic science and medicine, bioinformatics, biotechnology, and biowarfare. In this course we will explore some of the provocative and unsettling connections between the wild insurgent speculation of biopunk fictions and the presumably more staid and conservative discourses of corporate futurism and bioethical policy making. How do the curious conversations, wary resistances, and imaginative interdependencies between these textual modes produce the argumentative resources available to each?

Course Requirements

Bruce Sterling, Holy Fire
Octavia Butler, Fledgling
Katsuhiro Otomo; dir., Roujin Z
Greg Bear, “Blood Music”
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
Paul di Filippo, Ribofunk
Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood
Rudy Rucker, Frek and the Elixer

Your final grade will be based on the following:

Attendance/Participation/Quizzes: 30%
Three short papers, approximately 3pp. each, posted to this Blog: 40%
Final Examination: 30%

Schedule of Meetings

Week One

Tuesday, August 29, Administrative Issues
Thursday, August 31, Personal Introductions

Week Two

Tuesday, September 5, Sterling
Thursday, September 7, Sterling

Week Three

Tuesday, September 12, Sterling
Thursday, September 13, Sterling

First Blog Post Should Be Published By Now

Week Four

Tuesday, September 19, Butler
Thursday, September 21, Butler

Week Five

Tuesday, September 26, Butler
Thursday, September 28, Butler

Week Six

Tuesday, October 3, Otomo
Thursday, October 5, Otomo

Week Seven

Tuesday, October 10, Otomo
Thursday, October 12, Bear

Week Eight

Tuesday, October 17, Atwood
Thursday, October 19, Atwood

Week Nine

Tuesday, October 24, Atwood
Thursday, October 26, Atwood

Second Blog Post Should Be Published By Now

Week Ten

Tuesday, October 31, di Filippo
Thursday, November 2, di Filippo

Week Eleven

Tuesday, November 7, Butler
Thursday, November 9, Butler

Week Twelve

Tuesday, November 14, Butler
Thursday, November 16, Butler

Week Thirteen

Tuesday, November 21, Butler
Thursday, November 23, Academic and Administrative Holiday

Week Fourteen

Tuesday, November 28, Butler
Thursday, November 30, Rucker

Third Blog Post Should Be Published By Now

Week Fifteen

Tuesday, December 5, Rucker
Thursday, December 7, Rucker

Take-Home Final Examination to Be Handed In-Class on Final Meeting