Search results for "dialectic "

Gloss

Author: joe

Wednesday, 06 July, 2011 - 18:50

Today I wrote a glossary for the wellbeing paper I wrote in May, following the comments I got from the reviewers. I had no idea which words to gloss, so I picked the interesting ones; and some were easy to gloss, others were difficult. Here they are.

agency
- the power of acting, or exerting one’s will in order to effect the course of events.
anagnorisis
- Aristotle’s term for ‘recognition’: the crucial moment of realisation in which a person or character either recognises someone’s authentic identity, or senses their own genuine nature, as if for the first time; the discovery or revelation of the truth.
articulation
- more than speaking, to articulate is to be able to connect things and join them together, such as words, sentences, ideas or narrative sequences.
catharsis
- literally, ‘purging’; a term Aristotle borrowed from medicine to refer to the arousal and release of emotion through dramatic narrative.
dialectic
- a heavily burdened word which refers to processes in which divergent views or positions are played out, through argument, conversation, dialogue or conflict, hopefully towards reconciliation; an unfolding of point and counterpoint.
diegesis
- the term borrowed from Greek to refer to the world of a narrative; the internal integrity of the storyworld, which is filled with people, places and customs which belong to that world.
exotopy
- literally meaning ‘outsideness’, this term is used by Mikhail Bakhtin to refer to the ability of an author to ‘speak’ the authentic voices of characters other than their own.
fetishism
- the transference of one’s own agency to a symbolic proxy; e.g. sexual arousal through objects (Freudian fetishism), or allocation of value away from human labour and onto commodities (Marxian commodity fetishism).
hamartia
- mistakes and errors of misrecognition, frequently a crucial element in ancient tragedies whose protagonists often fail to recognise someone they ought to know.
intentionality
- in phenomenology, ‘intentionality’ refers to the ‘directedness’ of conscious experiences: always towards objects, concepts, feelings and perceptions; hence it is related to but not the same as the common understanding which implies purpose and motive.
mimesis
- a Greek term used by Aristotle to refer to the ‘likeness’ of stories to the real world: their imitative capacity.
narratee
- the implied or actual audience to whom a story is directed.
narrative
- at its simplest, a narrative is a telling or re-telling of a series of events which are connected.
narrative configuration
- Louis Mink and Paul Ricoeur use the term ‘configuration’ to refer to the dual act of being able to grasp the different component or sequences of a narrative, while also apprehending the story as a whole, unified structure. Narrators and narratees, authors and readers, writers and audiences, all must be able to see both the figure of the entire story, and the sequences from which it is composed.
polyphony
- a term used by Mikhail Bakhtin to refer to the diversity of languages and voices that are present in the many strata of societies, the different eras of history, or the lines of great literature.
protagonist
- the lead role in the story, the main actor in the drama, the self of the individual’s storyworld.
spect-actor
- Augusto Boal’s terms for the new fusion of spectator and actor he wishes to bring about in both his drama and wider society.
technology of the self
- a term coined by Michel Foucault to refer to the means and techniques by which the self is shaped, both internally by the individual, and externally by influences outside the individual’s control.
unhomeliness
- a neologism created by the translation of Heidegger’s term ‘unheimlich’; I prefer unhomeliness since it implies a non-supernatural lack of a sense of belonging, rather than the word ‘uncanny’ which is sometimes used as a translation.
Verfremdungseffekt
- Brecht’s term for drawing attention to the artifice of dramatic performance - variously translated as ‘defamiliarisation’, ‘estrangement’, ‘alienation’ and ‘distanciation’; a mechanism whereby the illusion of narrative is punctured in order to highlight the highly contingent and constructed nature of stories and their worlds.

Categories: agency, anagnorisis, articulation, catharsis, dialectic, diegesis, exotopy, fetishism, hamartia, intentionality, mimesis, narratee, narrative, narrative configuration, polyphony, protagonist, spect-actor, technology of the self, Verfremdungseffekt,
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Twitter Dérive

Author: joe

Tuesday, 24 March, 2009 - 10:36

With the mass influx of new immigrants to twitter, it is currently popular, especially amongst press journalists, to point out its pointlessness and futility, and the vacuousness of the twit who twitters. 'Twats!' they cry, "with nothing better to do than to tell the world what it is they are doing, since they are never doing anything other than twittering tweets..." How idiotic to tell us that you're waiting for a bus. How naive to think we care about the mochaccino you're sitting down to. How arrogant to think we need to know about the banalities of your life in 140 characters or less. These journalists would much rather we read the 400 words they write about how crap what we're doing is.

The truth (or at least what I like to call the Zizekian switcherooney, in which the dialectic is reversed and shown to be more true than the original thesis) is that actually every paid-for word written by the average journalist is worthless pap. As Aristotle said, "all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind." The journalist prostitutes the written form in order to propel himself into a world of fiction - the world of minor celebrity, exclusive dining and snide superiority.

Meanwhile the lowly twitterer turns away from her productivity, and rejects the consumption of her time by the demands of capital: instead she considers her existence, and her being, and takes a vestal word-polaroid of something trivial and yet immense: her life moves in and out of representation and is, just for a moment, an examined life: by the self and by the other. Those others, the tweet-readers, too, abscond from their clocked-on time, and explore the psychogeography of the stream of characters that is the new real world. The closeness of disposable reality and its impermanence, the impossibility of its archival and retrieval, is precisely the beautiful opposite of the dead ossification of the world that the journalist strives for.

Categories: detournement, derive, Guy-Debord, psychogeography, Zizek, twitter, journalism, dialectic,
Comments: 2

Speculating about the real

Author: joe

Sunday, 08 February, 2009 - 14:29

The anti-scientistic bent which may have been over-emphasised in my narratives lecture series sits oddly with the humanist and rationalist streak that I know is also a fundamental aspect of my thinking.

It is a bit odd that I can call for Dawkins to be made a mullah even while I defend the Foucauldian or Nietzschean critique of knowledge practices and the will to power. Often, I know, I'm just arguing against the prevailing winds of any particular discussion: so maybe newcomers to academic discourse will often use the word 'scientific' as though it simply refers to a collection of precise knowledge we have which is metaphysically true, and so I'll take the critical line in order to problematise such understandings of what science might be. On the other hand, I'll find myself in a discussion with sociologists and phenomenologists and find it impossible to resist arguing that, in at least an important pragmatic (folk-knowledge?) sense if not in a metaphysical sense, we might often find scientists describing a universe in a way which would be true even if there were no humans around to construct (or be interpellated, structurated, socialised, or diagnosed by) such 'truths'.

So that's a dialect between undermining the uncritical acceptance of the feasibility of universal, scientific 'truth-finding' on the one hand, and on the other fighting the same 'absolutism' in Continental philosophy's 'linguistic turn' which denies the knowability of the world. In addition there is the historiographically fascinating journey of scientific knowledge, which brings discourses of progress and democratisation, as well as discourses of imperialism and technocratisation. All on a collision course with my considerable taste for evidence-based thinking, and my utter impatience with woolly credulism and religiosity.

I love the idea of 'science' as 'knowing', but hate it as 'reduction'; I admire it as a pure method, but mistrust it as a diagnosis of humanity; I like it as a myth-buster, but loathe it as mystifying jargon; I'm blown away by its sheer unafraid ambition for discovery, but can't bear its arrogant sense of infallibility and intolerance for critique.

Anyway, for all these reasons, I'm interested in science's own relationship with its history - the schizophrenic attitude it has to the pseudo-Lacanian submission to the laws of the father - rejecting dogma, but building on accepted bodies of knowledge; I'm very intrigued by the current debates being played out by the speculative realists who want to reconnect (what I see as) the phenomenological currents in philosophy with old-fashioned metaphysics; and, of course, I want to figure out this confliction in my own thinking because, frankly, my PhD is doing my nut.

For all these reasons, I thought, as part of my new campaign to write more on this blog, I'd start going through all the material I've circled and bookmarked, or shouted at and whooped over as I've read the lovely crinkly-wrapped New Scientist which arrives every week. I'm not sure exactly what will pop out, whether a specific method of critique will emerge (textual and discourse analysis, deductive reasoning, phenomenological responses, etc) or whether there'll be any trends as to criticism or advocation of what I find. Maybe I'll at least work out some of my conflicted angst about scientific practices. Maybe not. Either way, this post has been by way of introduction. My first go will appear on this blog some time very soon.

Categories: science, positivism, reductionism, phenomenology, philosophy, linguistic-turn, knowledge, dialectic,
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Splitting the infinite

Author: joe

Monday, 09 July, 2007 - 22:48

Marx's appropriation of Hegel's dialectic was actually a reinvention. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis suited Marx's optimistic faith in the common man's ability to see reason, throw off the shackles and enjoy the fruits of the inevitable succession of progress.

Hegel, conversely, is mostly, to me, beyond comprehension, but his notion of dialectic I think is something more complex and deeper than the popular characterisation (no doubt Marx's too, but this is a blog, not a dissertation).

My personal reinvention of the Hegelian dialectic is as a fundamental diagnosis of the nature of human conception. The mind is a knife, and analysis splits the object of our contemplation into entities in a way that fools us into thinking we have concrete understanding, where in fact we only see the shadows in the cave. To comprehend the butterfly, we pin it and dissect it, asserting our mastery; in fact we have mastered dead flesh and traces - what is no longer a butterfly. To understand, we destroy.

Of course, the converse is equally true. In our mastery of the butterfly we have created more things than were previously in the world. We name thoraxes and epidermal membranes; we create intersubjectivities between each other as we share our new insights. We pattern the Lepidoptera, note consistencies and variations, engender entire fields of pursuit, and lifetimes spent chasing the fugitive knowledge of Fritillaries. We produce a meta-butterfly, an ur-insect. To understand, we create.

The dialectic - we destroy, we create - is pure perspective, commentary on the consequence of thought. Paradoxically opposed, mutually exclusive, in binary opposition, cleft halves of the whole. Each conceptual position we take deceives us into trusting its reasonableness, but a further examination reveals not only that it is merely an exclusion of the opposing position but also that both positions are, in fact, the same. My denouncement of you as evil is simply my fear that you are good. My definition of myself is also a definition of (absolutely) everything else. My simplification of complexity is nothing more or less than an augmentation of that complexity.

Categories: Marx, Hegel, dialectic, paradox, working-through,
Comments: 0