Super Bowl, Baby?

Oh, the Super Bowl! Unique among sporting events in the States, this annual tour de force remains incomparable. Long after the final minutes, the critical question lingers on – Which will be remembered, the game or the commercials?

However, this year, even by Super Bowl standards, the prospects of these ‘epic’ ads are already drawing more than their fair share of publicity. Continue reading “Super Bowl, Baby?”

Sticks and Stones …

Philosophers have long since begun to question the possibility of ‘neutral’ speech acts.  More recently, thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Rene Girard have each offered diverse analyses of the many ways in which discourse is marked by violence.  Is language necessarily connected to acts of oppression?  Can we speak without limiting the world, reducing the ‘other’?

Recent headlines suggest the beginning of a kind of bare minimum assent to such theories.  According to the BBC, the French government is deliberating over the possibility of legally banning ‘psychological violence’ (i.e., verbal abuse) within couples.  While practical questions of ‘proof’ remain, the consideration itself is encouraging.  Contrary to the old adage, words can hurt.  And, if the law passes, ‘violent’ verbal exchanges will yield real penalties.

Continue reading “Sticks and Stones …”

When Good Philosophers Do Bad Things

596px-Scale_of_justice_2_new Contemporary developments in Hermeneutics have compellingly defended the claim that one cannot ‘put down’ the self in the act of picking up a pen.  Our contexts and ideologies, our histories and stories, bleed into our work. However, while it may be reasonable (and even desirable) to expect readers to juggle the possible influences of a writer’s life and times, one might ask if it is equally so when a particular ‘authorial context’ is judged to be far more dangerous than an ill-fated love affair or the Renaissance.

Recent headlines offer one such example.  An English edition of Emmanuel Faye’s work Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy hits the shelves next month.  And, while ‘Continentals’ have long since known of Heidegger’s ties to Nazism, it is of little doubt that this new translation will further fuel already burning questions: does this imply that Heidegger’s corpus was inspired by National Socialism and, if so, does his philosophy serve to advance it as well? Continue reading “When Good Philosophers Do Bad Things”

What’s in A Signature?

UnderwoodKeyboard Does the medium of pen and paper allow for a greater intimacy than the keyboard? Is the distance between the author and the ‘written word’ somehow smaller than that of ‘typed words?’ In a lecture course on the Pre-Socratics, Martin Heidegger poses similar questions. The late German thinker suggests that the advent of the typewriter marks a clear transition towards a kind of ‘sign-less’ writing, a writing cut off and ‘concealed.’

But have such concerns become vastly outdated? Modern technology has prompted a new set of terms, a new comparison of ‘distance:’ the ‘typed’ versus the ‘cyber.’ The New York Times recently posted a ‘running debate’ on the positive and negative aspects of ‘E-books.’ The many perspectives offered especially focus on questions concerning the ability of E-books to meet the educational ‘needs’ of the ‘human brain.’ Continue reading “What’s in A Signature?”

Am I Woman? But I Roar!

431px-Symbol_venus In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir offers her own response to the question ‘what is a woman?’ Most generally, the French philosopher suggests that women are neither constituted nor recognized by their own autonomy but, rather, by their ‘relation to-’. De Beauvoir calls attention to the historical subjugation that has resulted from this referential identity, specifically when women have been defined in terms of their ‘relation to-men.’

Gold medalist Caster Semenya, a runner from South Africa, has recently seen the ugliness of this subjugation. Doctors across the globe are trying to determine Semenya’s ‘relation to-women,’ trying to determine if Semenya has enough ‘female characteristics’ to continue competing as a ‘woman athlete.’ Unfortunately, many of her fellow runners have already decided the issue for themselves. Elisa Cusma, for example, an Italian woman (I mean … runner), responded simply: “These kind of people should not run with us” [sic]. Continue reading “Am I Woman? But I Roar!”

Is Your Farm In My Network?

400px-Rooster_portrait2 Nostalgia often follows conquest, and our relationship with the natural world is no exception. As human control over nature (or, at least, its illusion of control) has increased, many have responded by racing back to the forests. However, the motivation behind this nostalgia remains unclear – do we return to keep vigil (bearing the knowledge of our mistakes) or simply to purview our spoils?

The American quintessence of this tension is, arguably, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau took to the woods, hoping that the simplicity offered by nature might allow the distance necessary to understand (or ‘transcend’) industrial society. The irony, or perhaps the gift, of Thoreau is two-fold. For not only does his account of this experience (in Walden, or Life in the Woods) call into question the ‘intellectual’ conquest (as yet another kind of conquest) of nature but it, also, reveals the negligible risk usually taken in these ‘returns.’ Thoreau did build his cabin in the woods. But the area was so close to the edge of town that he could not help but hear the all-too-industrial trains bustling by. Continue reading “Is Your Farm In My Network?”

Give Me Retirement … But Not Yet

Augustinus_1 In The Confessions, Augustine offers a personalized account of his struggle with conversion. While artful in presenting the dirty details, he consistently directs readers to a more general problem – what should one do when caught between what the mind knows and what the body desires? Augustine’s experience of this familiar tension largely focused on celibacy. Although intellectually certain of chastity’s virtue, his ‘broader’ loves left him to beg: ‘Give me continence … but not yet!’ Continue reading “Give Me Retirement … But Not Yet”