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Dear Diana,

I (and I mean "I") do not think either absolute determinism or absolute
free will make any sense. It's another binary opposition that simply
precludes all recognition of the complicated interplay of a world
"always already" there and the human experience of being engaged with
that world in multiple ways.

Logic does not always lead to truth (if there is "truth" rather than
Stevens's "truths"), but I don't see much evidence that illogic leads to
anything except maybe Sarah Palin's conviction that she has foreign
policy experience because you can see Russia from Alaska. (Actually, you
can't from most of Alaska; who knows where she imagined that location?
I've driven to and through Alaska, and I never saw Russia.) It was a
long time ago; maybe they moved.
Cheers,
Nancy


>>> Diana Manister 01/18/10 11:10 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,

Many philosophers have debated whether free will exists or not. I don't
have an answer. I do know that the social philosopher John Searles
teaches his Berkeley classes in Philosophy of Mind that even if free
will doesn't exist, we can't live without believing that it does.

Even if we have options, as Searles also notes, we are largely
determined by the assumption we assimilate from the cultural background.

However, logic doesn't always lead to truth. It merely establishes
corollaries to a premise which may be false.

Diana



Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 10:50:06 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message
To: [log in to unmask]

Dear Diana,

If everything you think or say is determined, who is the "I" who knows
you are determined? It is simply not logical to say both.
Cheers,
Nancy



>>> Diana Manister 01/18/10 10:07 AM >>>
Dear Tom,

Having been raised near Edison's laboratory in Edison, NJ, where he is a
local god, I tend to credit him with more inventions than he actually
invented!

Sorry for that. Everyone knows Don Ameche invented the telephone!

The very facts you mention, for example that Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels,
et al were in place and ready to collaborate in an evil plan, is
evidence that the holocaust was a result of social/economic/anti-Semitic
forces that were trans-individual. Jews were bound to suffer terribly in
that climate. I don't know that the holocaust was inevitable; perhaps
some leader could have turned that tide. Maybe if Jesus came back as a
modern German.

I'm sure you agree that it's unlikely that a single individual could
have turned a society in that evil direction if they were not
predisposed to being turned.

With regard to individuals recognizing that they are manipulated by
ideolects circulating in their society, don't you think that awareness
helps one think for oneself as much as is possible? If the public were
aware in that way they would not have bought into Bush's proclamation
that we were bringing "democracy" to Iraq.

It's often said that Postmodern literature is a-historical (by Terry
Eagleton for one), but in fact it reveals historical accounts to be
distortions. When we realize that we tend to question what we've been
taught, and I can't see that as anything but a good thing. The history
of the United States as seen by Native Americans is quite a different
history from the one I learned in school. 

Our beliefs are largely determined; if you agree that a person's beliefs
are part of her/his identity, then our subjectivities are largely
determined. I for one am glad I know that.

Diana



Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 18:36:44 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message
To: [log in to unmask]

Diana wrote:
D> Tom you are a Romantic. Do you really think there would be no
telephones if Edison were not born?

Edison? Since I believe in the unique, powerful, contribution of the
individual, let me say this: As long as Alexander Graham Bell was born,
we'd have telephones. 

And while it can be argued that any particular invention would have been
discovered _eventually_, how much longer would the world have had to
wait if the particular inventor hadn't made their discovery, and what
effect would that delay have had on human history?

D> And if Germany was susceptible to a charismatic leader it would have
been manipulated
D> by some other Sturm-und-Drang-spouting leader. The forces that made
Hitler 
D> had little to do with him.

This statement is bizarre. Are you proposing that the Holocaust (the
government-sponsored murder of millions of civilians) was _inevitable_,
regardless of who came to power??? Are you seriously saying history
would have played out in the exact same way if Hitler, Mengele,
Goebbels, et al., had been assassinated before 1939? Where does this
"inevitability" come from? Is our whole damn history from now until
doomsday pre-determined in your analysis?

D> There are reasons why postmodern novels like those of Vonnegut,
Pynchon, 
D> Heller and Barth portray the individual as helpless and
insignificant. 

They are wrong. Think for yourself.

-- Tom --







Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2010 09:29:38 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message
To: [log in to unmask]

Tom you are a Romantic. Do you really think there would be no telephones
if Edison were not born?

And if Germany was susceptible to a charismatic leader it would have
been manipulated by some other Sturm-und-Drang-spouting leader. The
forces that made Hitler had little to do with him.

There are reasons why postmodern novels like those of Vonnegut, Pynchon,
Heller and Barth portray the individual as helpless and insignificant. 

Humanism hasn't got us very far. The planet is sick from human stupidity
and we are banalized to death by people soliciting the wages we make,
and the wages we don't.

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Jan 16, 2010, at 2:00 AM, Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]> wrote:




Diana wrote:
D> Most achievements would have emerged in time -- even without Galileo
D> we would not still think the sun revolved around the earth. 
D> Individuals as I say are overrated.

I couldn't disagree with this more.

The importance of the individual is probably most obvious in the arts.
No "Ninth Symphony" without Beethoven. No "Prufrock" and "The Waste
Land" (and this list) without Eliot. 

The importance of the individual, for good or evil, is pretty obvious in
politics too. Let a different George Washington declare himself to be
King instead of President and trace the new history of the United States
(and the world). Ask a Jew about the evil-importance of an individual
German demagogue named Adolph Hitler.

Even in science, the individual matters a great deal. Perhaps the
inventions and discoveries we know today would have been made later by
someone else, but how much later? And how would that delay alter the
development of society or science as we know it? 

I think the truth is the opposite of what you write. In fact, a handful
of individuals, perhaps a few thousand people, a number small enough to
fit in a movie theater, have changed the course of human history. We all
stand on the shoulders of those individual giants.

-- Tom --




Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2010 17:34:50 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message
To: [log in to unmask]


Dear Nancy,

I'll look for that online -- thanks for the suggestion!

Language seems to have evolved organically -- like a bird's feathers for
which no smart bird can take credit for inventing.

Most achievements would have emerged in time -- even without Galileo we
would not still think the sun revolved around the earth. Individuals as
I say are overrated. 

TGIF!

Cheers, 

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Jan 15, 2010, at 4:26 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:




Dear Diana,

I think the most interesting poetic focus on this topic is Denise Riley.
If you can find a copy of Mop Mop Georgette, you will have a fascinating
poetic discourse about discourse and self. (I think it's out of print,
but a library might have it.)

I did not, by the way, say "discourse" originates with the individual; I
said humans create discourse. The connection--and direction--is an old
discussion, but words did not spontaneously appear in the universe--even
if you believe a god suddenly said them and created it. There is still
the god. My point is that none of this makes sense except in a complex
set of relations. To say language just appears is as decontextualized as
to say individual romantic creation, a la Coleridge, just appears.
Neither works if you try to follow it to any logical conclusion. But
then, as I said, I discuss this in the article on "Subjectivities,"
which focuses on how Anglo-American and French theories are set down on
a template like Scottish poetry where they just do not explain
anything--one of them being these notions of discourse as either totally
originated by the lyric voice or totally constructed by language. I
never feel constrained by "either/or"; it is pretty much always a false
dichotomy.
Cheers,
Nancy


>>> DIana Manister 01/15/10 3:18 PM >>>
Dear Nancy,

As you know origins are tricky -- language itself does not originate
with the individual who learns one.

As for discourses, like the many feminisms from liberal humanist to
radical postructuralist, who can say if any one person started them, or
if a collective intention reached a critical intensity and was
articulated as a system of ideas whose time had come.

No doubt Freud's ideas would have arrived in some form bearing someone
else's name.

Discourses have a life of their own -- although people put their names
to them. Someone would have taken credit for inventing the wheel if
there had been a way to do it.

Language, as a system, is a capacity with which we are born -- how it
originated as you know is a mystery. 

When a species evolves to a point where language is possible everyone
participates in its arrival.

No one invented language, or thought. They evolved, like the opposable
thumb.

Individualism is highly overrated, in my opinion.

Anyway there's no one whose ideas on the subject I'd rather hear than
you! 

Cheers,

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Jan 15, 2010, at 1:12 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:




Dear Diana,

I know what they mean. I don't just fully agree with any of them. I
think, as I said, that the notion of humans as devoid of agency is
simply false. 

Plato's realm is not disembodied either except the highest realm of the
Real--there is an actual world where humans see, perhaps only shadows,
but where they must choose. Otherwise there could be no dialogues. And
souls may end up there. But Plato was pretty clear on the necessity of
making choices that would lead to it.

Discourses are in one fundamental sense prior to any specific person: we
enter into a world where they exist. But humans are not mere passive
recipients of them. Where, then, do they begin? They are, at some point,
humanly created words, and humans alter, rearrange, add to or limit what
they experience in discourse. Otherwise there would not be any
difference between Foucault and Plato. You have not responded to the
problem of names. Who or what is Foucault that "he" had any theory at
all, much less one that was not already existing since--since when? the
Big Bang? 

I am not being stupid or obtuse: discourse is a human activity, not a
world without humans in which we happen to get in the way of traveling
words at times. If we are less undetermined and less an originary source
of discourse than Coleridge imagined, we are also less determined and
less mere recipients than your (and many others') reading of these
writers means. Someone, somewhere, somehow, sometime has ideas, words,
thoughts that alter any dominant discourse. That's why, for example,
there is femininism.

The real issue in these theories is not whether there is any author in
any sense but what an author is--as in Foucault's use of many discourses
to frame a particular question and offer an answer.

That he said it--or anyone said it--does not carry any weight unless it
is convincing.
Cheers,
Nancy

>>> Diana Manister 01/15/10 12:49 PM >>>
Nancy wrote:

"If only thoughts occur, they must exist in some possibly Platonic realm
where there is nothing but thought. I don't happen to think that makes
sense."

Dear Nancy,

There is nothing disembodied about thought. When Russell said "thoughts
occur" he meant they self-create and self-regulate, like breathing and
pulse, which are not Platonic or abstract.

Likewise when Foucault and Blanchot say we are spoken by circulating
discourses, they mean that these pass automatically among members of a
culture. No self consents to receiving them. 

I see positive value in admitting that we are more determined than we
would like to admit; we are implicated in the ideologies we criticize.
Foregrounding our ideological conditioning can only increase awareness.
As Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing."

Diana






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