Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Libertarian Logic

by Drew Van't Land

Editor's Note: Throughout all the debates and campaigning done during the Canadian election, and those that continue in the United States, one issue remains consistently at the fore: the economy. Though philosophers talking about economics is often a recipe for misunderstandings and misrepresentations, it is also the case that, as Reformational philosophy long ago recognized, the modes of life are interconnected, which means economics is not a discourse internal to itself but contains a variety of presuppositions which can be illuminated through other discourses. In this post, ICS Alumnus Drew Van't Land takes on the philosophical foundations of a certain form of libertarian thinking about economics in order to see if the kind of philosophical anthropology that undergirds libertarianism stands up to such scrutiny. With economics at the forefront of contemporary political debates, a philosophical investigation of a view that generally promotes the freedom of the economy over and against political restrictions of the economy is especially timely.

“The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete,
and often in a purely rational sense… his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle.”
- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Libertarianism is the contemporary classification for a political philosophy which used to be called (classical) liberalism, but is now associated more with conservatism (though it is anything but). And I should know; I used to count among their number: until this year, I was still technically registered as a Libertarian (though it's been years since I've voted that way). The last thing that libertarians could be accused of is inconsistency. Their political reasoning is airtight:

1. People should be free.
2. Power inhibits freedom.
3. Therefore the government should have as little power as possible.

However, the scope of this syllogism is not wide enough to embrace the complex modes of meaning which animate our socio-political being. The real significance of this political argument rests on three load-bearing assumptions, which are highly contestable upon the realization that their definitions have been loaded from the start.

...the scope of this syllogism is not wide enough to embrace the complex modes of meaning which animate our socio-political being.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sleepless in Ferguson, Waking Up in Toronto

by Dean Dettloff

Two nights ago, on August 9th, I was checking my usual news sources and social media after being away from the internet for almost two weeks due to traveling. After taking planes and cars around North America, attending a best friend’s wedding and spending time with two newborn twin nephews, I quickly realized that yesterday was the anniversary of Mike Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, an event which a year ago transformed my orientation to philosophy, religion, myself, and my world. I took some time to follow the difficult reflections from a variety of activists I became familiar with in the last year. Demonstrators gathered in Ferguson to mourn Brown's death and continue making sure he was remembered, and I watched as twitter was constantly updated with videos and photos of police in riot gear. I was ready to go to bed at a reasonable hour, back home, safe and sound in my own familiar bed in Toronto, when I started seeing reports that someone among the Ferguson protesters was shot.

I stayed up late watching reactions and hearing news in real-time from reporters and activists on the ground via twitter (a better strategy than waiting for Fox or CNN), anxious about new details. Who got shot? What were the police saying? Why did a man just get arrested for taking video of the shooting victim surrounded by armed officers? Having just finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book Between the World and Me, all this news hit me differently and even more profoundly than the news of Mike Brown's shooting a year ago.

A rush of thoughts paraded through my mind as I tried to finally fall asleep. What does it mean to be a white, American, Christian man studying philosophy in Canada at a place called “The Institute for Christian Studies,” working for the “Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics?” How will I explain the transformative months between August 2014 to August 2015 to my children? Am I allowed to comment on this? Who can I listen to in order to purge myself of the ways in which I participate in a systemically racist society? Should I really be worried about my own guilt when a black person was just shot? What headlines will I wake up to tomorrow morning? Will the activists I’m following be alive and out of jail (as it turns out, at least two ended up being arrested)? How many of these questions are hiding a deeper racism in myself that remains to be dealt with?

How many of these questions are hiding a deeper racism in myself that remains to be dealt with?

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Gesture of Blogging

By Matt Bernico

In January 2016, Matt Bernico will teach a distance course entitled "In Media Res: Media, Technology, and Culture" in the Master of Worldview Studies (MWS) program at the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS). This blog post illustrates the kinds of questions that will be raised in the course, which will draw from the work of Vilém Flusser, Walter Benjamin, and others in order to think through how media affects and effects human culture. From the course description: "According to Michel Foucault, the 'blueprint' of the 20th century was the prison or hospital. However, we might say that the 'blueprint' for the 21st century is the computer network: namely the Internet. With the technological revolutions of the 21st century, we see the digitalization and informationalization of everything. Learning to live, think and act within this sort of society is increasingly difficult and requires new diagnostics of culture, politics and the self. This class will engage with these questions in light of the importance of materiality and embodiment in the community of faith’s ongoing reflection upon Christian life and mission." For more information on how to enroll in the MWS program at ICS, visit our web site. 

The relationship between technology and the body is always fraught with misunderstandings, ideology and assumption. For example, in a post-industrial society, what is work? It appears to be hammering away on a keyboard, but in what way can we disentangle post-industrial work from typing an essay, a blog, and so on? Materially, we might say these acts are identical, but observing and unpacking the gesture of blogging itself might yield some phenomenological difference. So, then, what is the gesture of blogging?

To begin, we might consider what a gesture is at all. In his book Gestures, the media philosopher, Vilém Flusser (1920-1991), calls a gesture “a movement of the body, or tool of the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation. Meaning must be discovered in relationship to movement” (2). A gesture is a thing we do in collaboration with other actors/objects that describes the human intentionality and freedom in an act. For example, if a car speeds toward you and then you leap out of the way, this is not the gesture of leaping: the intentionality is not your own. Whereas, we might call leaping in the context of exercise or a game as the gesture of leaping. The difference is in determining what actor has the ability to express the most intention and freedom.

What can we say about the gesture of blogging? Flusser, a thinker who exclusively used a typewriter, writes about the gesture of writing and even typing, but typing on a digital apparatus, especially in the case of blogging, is quite different. Before we can get at the gesture of blogging, let’s look at the gesture of writing. According to Flusser writing is about scratching a surface in a specific linear pattern with graphite, chalk or ink. The gesture of writing is about inscription.

It is the tendency of some philosophers of technology and the media, namely Heidegger, to bemoan the fall of writing to the typewriter and in turn digital media. Heidegger points out that the way we act on the world is through our hands and writing is certainly one of the ways that humans act. Flusser would be in agreement here; humans pass the world through their hands, whereas a squid, for example, sucks the world in through it’s mouth.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Everything Will Be Alright: Overcoming Christian Whiteness

By Josiah R. Daniels

In rapper Kendrick Lamar’s newest music video Alright, Kendrick puts visual imagery to themes he has been working with for quite some time; black nihilism/resiliency, police brutality, the new Jim Crow, life in the ghetto and the fragility of black life. Like the entirety of To Pimp a Butterfly, this video demonstrates Kendrick’s keen ability to address modern crises regarding racial violence in an artistic and prophetic way.

Throughout his video, Kendrick imaginatively and concretely depicts the danger that threatens black and brown people day in and day out. But this does not stop Kendrick from literally soaring above it all; he flies above the lights, the streets, the fans and haters, the ghetto, the city, money and even the police themselves. The last scene depicts Kendrick perched above his hometown Compton, looking out to see all that he can see. A white-male police officer appears underneath the place where Kendrick looms—the officer looks up and sees Kendrick occupying an unusual space. It is unusual in one sense because Kendrick is, so to speak, flying sky high. But Kendrick’s being on top of the world is doubly unusual: Kendrick occupies a black body—a body that has, since the “colonial moment,” been fraught with an unwarranted history of subjugation. This black bo(d)y must not and sadly cannot escape the fixity of the racial imagination. Kendrick, a black-inner-city-male, “flying high” (which the reader should now understand to be a metaphor) is akin to an elephant flying, an absolute impossibility.

It becomes clear that the officer means Kendrick harm. Rather than using his rifle or his sidearm, the officer, cast as the white-masculine, makes a gesture towards Kendrick by pointing at him with his fingers which have been formed into the shape of a weapon. And with a single “shot” Kendrick is knocked back down to the dirty dusty earth. With all this in mind, a twofold question must be posed: What is Kendrick trying to convey to his audience and what is the significance of the concluding bit of Alright?

I think that the conclusion of Alright tells us that the racial problem is bigger than white people, guns, or the police. That’s not to say that this triad is wholly exonerated from culpability concerning injustices perpetuated against dark bodies. However, there is something that Darren Wilson takes as an a priori before he, a white, gun-toting-police man shoots the “demon” known as Mike Brown. This seemingly intangible, indescribable, elusive “something” was also a fait accompli in the shootings of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 50-year-old Walter Scott. This “something” is what causes the police officer in Alright to shoot Kendrick Lamar. This “something” is whiteness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Laudato Si, Fracking, and Air Conditioning

Pope Francis’s new encyclical Laudato Si is, as expected, making a lot of waves. Though it maintains the criticism of market ideology found in both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (the latter even once called for a “New World Order” capable of restraining the destructive effects of unfettered economics), Laudato Si is unambiguous about what needs to change. Even conservative commentators are noticing there is little wiggle room, opting for outright critique of the document rather than simple domestication. Laudato Si addresses, however, the undeniable situation of humanity today, one in which humans can and do actually change the environments we find ourselves in—and Pope Francis recognizes that we can no longer afford to ignore the increasingly toxic environment we are actively producing.

Pope Francis recognizes that we can no longer afford to ignore the increasingly toxic environment we are actively producing.

In a recent article published in Rolling Stone, Paul Solotaroff tells the story of a fracking town, Vernal, Utah, where infant mortality rates are rising at an alarming rate. The discovery of this tragedy was made not by the EPA, and certainly not by those in the fracking business, but by a midwife, Donna Young, for whom infant mortality rates are not a statistic but a lived reality. As Solotaroff narrates, the conditions of Vernal are hardly inviting for the fragile development of new lives. Fracking, which injects high-pressured fluid into the ground in order to force the gas underneath to the surface, produces a variety of derivative environmental effects—perhaps most troubling are the carcinogenic gases that populate both the air and the ground. Vernal’s location in a basin only compounds the problems, since the bowl traps the gases producing a thick haze of contaminants. 

When Young began to investigate the unusually high numbers of infant deaths and troubled pregnancies she was encountering, her reputation and position were quickly maligned—for a town that depends on fracking to exist, calling its adverse effects to the fore is a dangerous political move. Young’s story is heartbreaking, a classic case of someone trying desperately to speak the truth for the common good but being squelched for the sake of deep pockets. But Solotaroff’s article brings another important question to the fore, namely, the general problem of atmospheric conditions. Vernal is a town where the environment is literally becoming unsuitable for life.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Justice, Interfaith, and Bathrooms

by Allyson Carr

It’s funny how something as ordinary as the need to use the washroom can spark a profound moment of solidarity.

This past week, I spoke at a conference in Ottawa and attended a community forum as part of our Justice and Faith project. Both of these events featured a performance of Just Faith?, the one-act play that was developed out of the research for that project. Since the play was in many ways a product of our research, it was intended for a Christian audience (the community upon which the research was based). And yet, the way that MT Space (the theatre company we engaged to write and perform the script) works draws on their own life experience, and so there were multifaith elements present throughout the play. The actors’ lives woven into the scenes set it in an interfaith context, even as a play that focuses on Christians struggling to understand Scripture’s call to pursue social justice.

This time around, MT Space introduced a new scene, replacing one that had originally been written by an actor who could not attend the Ottawa performance. In the new scene, a woman recounts the story of her mother and her grandmother opening up their doors to an unexpected swarm of strangers who appeared one day, walking through their small home village in India. The strangers were from all over the world—different ages, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds — but it turns out that in that particular moment these hundreds of people were all united in their need for one thing: a bathroom. While there was only one toilet in the home, the women told us how her mother and grandmother welcomed these hundreds of strangers into their house, fed them what they could, and allowed them to rest for a bit from their travels. She recounted how there were people covering every possible surface in the home and yard, exhausted, but content—now that they had been able to get to that bathroom.

In the new scene, a woman recounts the story of her mother and her grandmother opening up their doors to an unexpected swarm of strangers who appeared one day, walking through their small home village in India.

As the strangers left again a few hours later, they profusely thanked the mother and grandmother, explaining that they were on a walk marking the 75th anniversary of the Salt March—the 1930 protest against British rule led by Gandhi. The actor closed her scene by asking, “I wonder what the world would be like if we all just…opened our doors to each other?” Watching that scene and thinking it over, I wondered too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On (Not) Accepting Reality: Introducing The Annihilation of Hell

No comments:
By Nik Ansell

A couple of months ago (on March 5, 2015), we had a book launch event at ICS for my monograph, The Annihilation of Hell: Universal Salvation and the Redemption of Time in the Eschatology of Jürgen Moltmann [1]. Before I said a few words to introduce the book, Jim Olthuis, my ICS promotor for the dissertation version that I defended at the VU, Amsterdam, and Jon Stanley, one of my own ICS doctoral students, also my RA, who helped me get the published version into shape, also spoke. So together, we represented three generations of ongoing ICS work in philosophical theology. After thanking Jim and Jon for their kind words, I introduced my presentation, which is reproduced below, with the following question:
I wonder if anyone knows which famous person said the following: “Hope is a tease designed to prevent us from accepting reality.

I’ll give you a clue:

The year is 1924.

Remarkably, the identical words, with the same intonation, are also uttered 90 years later.

The place is England.

The speaker is someone who resists all historical change.

But she is also known and loved for her withering wit.

Despite her name, she is no shrinking Violet.

She is a central character in a historical drama.

Played by Maggie Smith.

The one and only Dowager Countess of Grantham (Violet Crawley).

Downton Abbey, season five; episode four.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Let the Right One In

1 comment:
by Shannon Hoff

Sometimes, in looking at people, I find myself noticing the way in which they deviate from an ideal of beauty, an ideal of beauty that I get from magazine covers, TV shows, advertising, Hollywood movies, and so on. When I look at them, what I see in them is their flaws in relation to that ideal. And when I see this, when I notice this, I am surprised, because in principle I am deeply opposed to this ideal of beauty. I think of it as highly destructive and highly problematic, disorienting human values and wreaking havoc with people’s sense of confidence and sense of self, and having nothing intrinsically to do with what makes a person good or interesting.

In this situation, I find myself doing something to which I am deeply opposed. I think in one way, but I perceive in a different way; I find myself conflicted, divided with myself. My perception operates, it seems, according to its own rules; I notice something that I do not want to notice. My conscious commitments—the thoughts and beliefs that I have developed through the process of observing and thinking about what is good and right—are at odds with my unconscious commitments, which have their way in my perception. What this experience illuminates to me is the fact that I’m actually not strictly in control of my perception or of myself. On the one hand, I think of myself as a person who has developed ideas, beliefs, and commitments, and so on; I think of myself as in control, as deciding and thinking for myself. On the other hand, however, I experience myself as out of my control, perceiving in ways in which I do not want to perceive.

What this experience illuminates to me is the fact that I'm actually not strictly in control of my perception or of myself.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is Being Meaning? Plantinga and Dooyeweerd

By Joshua Harris

No less than 57 years ago, The Reformed Journal published an interesting little article by a promising 25-year-old philosopher named Alvin Plantinga—the same Alvin Plantinga who would be finishing up his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Yale University later that same year (1958). Plantinga, who needs no introduction now, is one of (if not the) most prominent, well-respected philosophers of religion in Anglo-American philosophy. And even though his work is and continues to be foundational for the decidedly “analytic” movement of “Reformed Epistemology” in the English-speaking world, he does maintain some intimate ties with ICS’s own “continental” Reformational tradition. One of the clearest cases in which these ties are evident is the aforementioned article published in The Reformed Journal entitled “Dooyeweerd on Meaning and Being.”

As the title suggests, Plantinga’s article concerns the Reformational philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s famous dictum in the prolegomena of his magnum opus, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought:Meaning is the being of all that has been created” (I.4). With an analytic rigor and clarity of thought that would be known eventually as characteristic of Plantinga’s impressive oeuvre, the Michigan-born philosopher sets out to find a sensible interpretation of this claim. According to him, Dooyeweerd’s position appears to be revolutionary, since the great Christian philosophers of the past have all been in agreement that the created order does, in fact, have both “meaning” and “being” (and that these two are distinct). Yet, Plantinga continues, upon closer examination, the dictum ends up yielding one of two equally unsavory interpretations: as (1) a simple “truism” which is wholly quotidian with respect to the tradition of Christian philosophy; or as (2) a thoroughly obscure dictum which leaves us “in the dark about its precise implications for important Christian doctrines” (15).

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Walking Dead Meets the Resurrection

By Nik Ansell

The following piece comes from a chapel talk I gave at ICS on April 10th, 2012—almost exactly three years ago. The theme, echoed in the title above, was designed to appeal to fans of a certain TV series on AMC, The Walking Dead (the sixth season will air later this year), and to serve as a backdrop for some thoughts related to Easter.
Just before I spoke, we watched a clip from Season 1, Episode 6. Here our band of survivors find temporary reprieve from the Ultimate Zombie Apocalypse by entering the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA: the perfect place, one might think, for analyzing the disease and finding a cure. Needless to say, although the men and women in white coats are still on site, a cure is not forthcoming—indeed it turns out the basement generators are about to run out of fuel; for the characters in this show, reprieve is only ever temporary! Nevertheless, they (and we) do get some scientific analysis, courtesy of a computer playback featuring TS-19—a former scientist-turned-test-subject who, despite being infected by a plague that had already reached ‘ep(idem)ic’ proportions, still had the foresight to ask his colleagues to record What Happens Next. . . !

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Feasible and the Possible

1 comment:
“What [humanity] needs is not just the persistent posing of ultimate questions, but the sense of what is feasible, what is possible, what is correct, here and now. The philosopher, of all people, must, I think, be aware of the tension between what he claims to achieve and the reality in which he finds himself.”

— Hans Georg Gadamer, Foreword to the Second Edition of Truth and Method, p. xxxviii.

As a philosopher, this quote has always filled me with hope. That may seem odd, given that it appears to be reining in philosophers, reminding us to keep our feet planted in reality, and naming the tension between what we want to achieve and what we actually can. But it is precisely in the realm of the possible, rooted in the here and now, that life in all its concrete, stubborn vividness emerges. Sometimes reality seems bleak or disappointing and one is tempted to head for the hills of theoretical abstraction instead of working with the tools one has to construct practical and possible solutions to messy concrete problems. And yet, time and again, I have found that the bleakest setting can harbour unexpected life anew. (This is of course a lesson that any Christian who has spent time thinking about the juxtaposition between Good Friday and Easter Sunday intuitively knows, but it holds true in many areas.)

Boethius, considering Lady Philosophy
What, then, is “the sense of what is feasible, what is possible, what is correct, here and now”? To know what is “feasible” and “possible” and “correct” one must first get to know the materials one is working with: reality in all its mud and muck, cold Springs and delayed rainy seasons. One has to move out of the realm of the abstract, and into the realm of concrete issues. As philosophers, so often we get addicted to those “ultimate questions”: What is truth? What is thought? What does it mean to be human? And in trying to pose those questions honestly—and they are certainly good and worthy questions to ask—we can lose sight of the here and now. The best philosophers, I would argue, are those who understand that “ultimate questions” are tied to “underlying questions,” without which they would not have meaning. Universals are senseless without the concretes that ground them.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kill or Be Killed: Raylan Givens and the Justifications of Masculinity

This post is part of our "popular mythology" series, investigating the intersections of religion and popular culture.


By Shane Cudney

Kill or be killed. Few of us have ever faced this question in the moment of survival when instinct asserts itself and action can’t wait for deliberation. As a combat veteran, my son looked this hellhound in the eyes. While he was fortunate enough to leave Afghanistan at the end of his tour, Afghanistan never left him and he has never awakened from the nightmare. Living in a war zone does something to you. It brands you for life with the mark of hell.

For better or for much worse, the military, and every other institution, including most especially the family, are the training grounds that fundamentally shape men into who they are. These are the places where key questions are implicitly answered, the most significant of which is, what does it mean to be a man? If it’s still a man’s world, as they say, and if that world is marked by terror, violence and war, then what it means to be a man is even now inextricably linked to survival, the strategies it gives rise to, and the fear that informs them. F/X’s Justified (2010-2015), starring Timothy Olyphant, is an interesting vehicle that can’t help but explore these very questions.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Can Christianity Be Reduced to Love Seeking Justice?

By Ethan van der Leek

Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Jószepf Molnár
The Bible is filled to the brim with stories, wisdom, and prophecies of God’s liberating energies. One of the founding and establishing moments of Israel was God’s act to free them from slavery and oppression in Egypt. This event is inaugurated when God sees his people’s misery and hears them crying out. The God of the Hebrews is an attentive God, a God who responds to suffering. And it is this attentiveness that he summons his elected people too.

The event of the exodus is etched into the memory of Israel and makes its mark throughout the Old Testament. It is established at the outset of the Ten Commandments, prefacing the law given to Israel as a mark of their covenant relationship with God: “Remember the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt”. The law itself is filled with concern for the suffering; “care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger”, God says, “proclaim a year of jubilee”. It is present in the Psalms, the songbook of Israel, as a call to remember God’s faithfulness in raising Israel from Egypt. The prophets, too, claim that Israel was not faithful to God and they expressed this unfaithfulness by oppressing the poor and the land, ignoring God’s call to be a light to the nations and establish a kingdom of love and justice; Israel forgot God’s act of liberation, and established themselves as oppressors and idolaters, for which the justice of God brought them to exile.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Expanding Our Response To the Call of Justice: An Interview with Gerda Kits

No comments:
Gerda Kits is Assistant Professor of Economics at The King's University in Edmonton, Alberta. Her research brings the insights of economics to bear on real-world problems, notably ecological issues such as agriculture and conversations surrounding the Alberta oilsands. Additionally, Kits is concerned with the ways in which people of faith interact with issues of justice, and her work attempts to help professionals and non-professionals better understand their place and role in the complex web of social and environmental issues facing us today.
The following is an interview carried out by e-mail between Dean Dettloff, Post-Conference Animator for the CPRSE, and Dr. Kits.
Ground Motive: Thank you for your willingness to participate in this interview, Gerda. To start, let’s talk a bit about the intersection of justice and faith. Our society seems to be ambivalent about whether or not faith makes a difference when pursuing questions of justice and their solutions. Some say it should be treated neutrally, as a personal commitment that should be held away from one’s research and projects. Others suggest faith is inextricably part of how one interacts with identifying injustice and working toward justice. What have you found in your work on these issues?

Gerda Kits: First, faith is one of the reasons many of us work for justice. Pursuing justice is an imperative for Christians – it’s all over the Bible. That’s not to say that all Christians have to work for justice in the same areas, or in the same ways; there are many different forms it can take. But we all need to be engaged somehow, because it’s an integral part of our faith.

But faith also shapes how we understand justice. Sometimes justice is perceived narrowly as simply respecting the rule of law, or not discriminating against people, etc. In my understanding of the Bible, Christians ought to have a much fuller and more holistic idea of justice as restoring right relationships, and making sure people are able to live out their God-given calling. That goes far beyond simply obeying the law, towards taking positive steps to ensure people have access to all the different kinds of resources and relationships they need to flourish. So the specific issues we decide to pursue, and the solutions we propose, are going to be fundamentally shaped by our faith as well.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Tarantino's Leap: Miracles and Faith in Pulp Fiction

This post is part of our "popular mythology" series, investigating the intersections of religion and popular culture.

By Benjamin Shank

Pulp Fiction changed my faith. This might seem like an extraordinary thing for a film by postmodern violence-meister Quentin Tarantino to have accomplished. After all, the movie features criminal activity, senseless brutality, prolific profanity, drug use, and sexual bondage and domination, to name only a few elements that many Christians might question.

But, seeing it again soon after it hit Netflix a few months ago, I was reminded that accomplishing the extraordinary in a strange fashion could be just the point. In a concluding monologue, Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson, states:

“Now, whether or not what we experienced was an 'according to Hoyle' miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christianity: Slave Morality or Anthropotechnics?

By Dean Dettloff

Fernando Niño de Guevara, Inquisitor
In On the Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche famously argued that Christianity bound humans to what he called “slave morality.” On his telling, morals are not absolute goods but relative, developing out of historical situations. Slave morality arose in response to what he calls “master morality,” which is characterized by strong will. Weak willed individuals, according to Nietzsche, unable to overcome the strong, responded by inventing morals to keep the strong in check. This invention, however, was not done out of love (despite its claims to the contrary), but out of resentment, fear, and pessimism. The weak, unable to overcome the strong, asserted themselves by the creation of arbitrary values. Although these values are presented as shining examples of altruism, they are haunted, says Nietzsche, by a hidden and embarrassing egoism. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Christmas for Cynics


By Dean Dettloff

The close of 2014 has seen a series of volatile revelations about United States government. Grand Juries came under scrutiny as the suspiciously “ambiguous” case involving the death of Mike Brown failed to go to actual trial, a scrutiny compounded by the completely obvious events surrounding the death of Eric Garner which also failed to go to trial. The country began to erupt in a series of massive protests, a flurry of public debate, and the desperate attempts of some to dismiss the reactions to these injustices as immature or “uncalled for.” As if that wasn’t enough, the results of the Senate’s investigation into the CIA’s torture practices were published revealing incredibly disturbing details hidden from public view. And all this in the midst of the presidency of Barack Obama, whose election signaled for many what seemed like an almost Messianic change on the world political scene, yet whose presidency will be marked by #Occupy, the proliferation of drone warfare, the silencing of whistleblowers, and a clear message that the surveillance state isn’t going away anytime soon. As the New Year is upon us, many find themselves reasonably cynical about the possibility of the next year being anything “new” after all.